To ensure high program quality, at least two instructors teach each workshop. All Kidpower instructors meet a set of core competency standards, which include both program fidelity and the curriculum philosophy itself.
Kidpower instructors are carefully screened and undergo background checks and participate in one year of apprentice style training culminating in a week-long certification course. Instructors receive specialized continuing education about understanding victims, offenders, the legal process child victims may experience, the role of law enforcement and the nature of mental health treatment for survivors. They also receive specific training on services to special populations.
Our way of teaching introduces concepts and skills in ways that are designed to be fun rather than scary. We can’t promise that your child won’t be scared, but of thousands of children trained by Kidpower, not one parent has come back to us to complain that their child became more frightened. Instead, most parents tell us that their children feel less anxious after participating in a workshop, and that they have better tools for handling fears when they come up. We focus on what children need to do, rather than on what the problems are. It works best to teach children “People Safety” skills in a positive way instead of going into detail about the ways in which people can be harmful to others.
In some school programs during the school day we narrow the age groups to certain grade levels. We often have people who ask about the span of ages included in our different workshops for the general public. The skills that are taught in all of our workshops, from young children all the way up to older adults, are very similar. They are just presented in different contexts appropriate for each individual. We do this by introducing concepts in language that is appropriate for different ages and life situations by tailoring the individual role-plays to be relevant to each participant’s needs. In our children’s workshops, we find that both older and younger kids in families or mixed groups benefit greatly from learning the skills together. The most basic skills we present to younger children might seem obvious, but are extremely useful for older kids to be coached in as well. Likewise, role-plays done with older kids might not be relevant to a younger child, but can help them build awareness about situations that they might encounter as they get older. For example, a role-play with an older child might focus on the child being alone or with friends at the movies, whereas a comparable role-play for a younger child would focus on the child being at the movies with a parent or adult.
In our teen workshops, the range of our students may be young people who are just starting to go out in the world independently to young people who are getting ready to leave home. Again, most students of different ages really do seem to enjoy supporting each other’s learning.
Since our workshops are success-based, they focus on learning safety skills in a positive way. This approach builds confidence and awareness with safety and does not leave the participant fearful, making the skills appropriate for all ages.
In general, a child who is in a classroom for typical students without a personal assistant can succeed in a regular public workshop. Children who need assistance for bodily functions, such as using the restroom or eating, will need a different class structure in order to have their learning best supported. We often work with organizations and schools to provide this kind of adapted training. Since abilities differ greatly, the best way to assess which program would be best for your family is to contact our office and let us know about your child’s specific situation.
We wish we could have Kidpower workshops available often in every community. However, it takes a great deal of time and commitment to become an instructor with our organization and we don’t have the staff to offer many workshops for the general public. The fact that our programs are usually just over one evening, day or weekend makes it possible for families to travel longer distances and to make the trip into a special adventure. People who want a program close to home at a convenient time can discuss the feasibility of this with our office and may organize this workshop privately for their school, business, organization, or circle of friends and family.
More than half of the young people who come to our training tell their parents that they don’t want to come before the workshop. Almost all of our students have a great time once we get started, but sometimes they are bitterly arguing with their parents all the way to the door.
This resistance is often because they really don’t know what is going to happen in the class. Sometimes their own fears about the issues make them scared or make them say that it is too boring. They also might think that they know it all already. Parents need to understand that this is a health and safety issue, not a recreational issue and to treat going to the class like other important have-to’s. Even if a child understands all the concepts, this is not the same as having the chance to practice all the skills needed to follow those concepts. Just as with any other skill, repetition is likely to improve competence.
Often, after coming to one of our adult evening workshops, parents find that they feel much more confident about making this a requirement rather than a choice because they have a clearer picture of how the Kidpower program works.
Part of what motivated us to develop Kidpower was hearing from parents whose children had already been harmed. These wonderful parents had always believed that something like this would never happen to them because they had told their child all the safety rules and their child seemed to understand.
We found in our research that people under stress tend to do what they’ve practiced rather than what they’ve been told. This is why we have children practice making wise choices in a wide variety of situations—from de-escalating confrontations with bullies, to being aware enough to leave a situation before trouble ever starts, to getting away and running for help if necessary.
Many martial arts teachers encourage their students to participate in our programs and many of the people we work with are high ranking martial artists including Carol Middleton, who is a 7th Dan in Karate, and co-founder of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and our co-Founder Timothy Dunphy, who is a 6th Dan and international champion in his form of Taekwondo.
We see the martial arts or other physical activities that build strength, awareness, and coordination as being like long-term health care, and Kidpower as being like emergency medicine. Our programs work quickly to help parents and kids learn a common language for dealing with safety issues. Our students get a lot out of practicing dealing with different situations with their parents since their parents know what is happening in their lives. We also teach children a whole range of skills including how to set appropriate boundaries with people they know and how to de-escalate situations in addition to self-protection skills offered in some of our community programs (Weekend Family Workshop, Teenpower).
Although our workshops are very active and engaging, we have found that two hours of this level of directed learning is just too long for even very mature three-year-olds. Some four and even five-year-olds occasionally will find the workshop on the long side.
People who have brought their three-year-olds have almost always had to take them out or take many extra breaks and miss part of the program. Instead, if your child is younger than four, we have written materials available to prepare you to begin discussing and practicing skills in an age-appropriate way. Young children really learn these skills best when they are incorporated into everyday life, and parent education helps parents do that.
First of all, these workshops are longer than some kindergarten school days. So, it’s a long time for a young person to have her activities directed, and it’s a lot of information to absorb. These things can make a younger child feel bored or irritable.
Our experience is that young children live very much “in the moment” and are just beginning to learn impulse control. This is age-appropriate. Expecting them to be able to keep the physical skills “in context” (i.e. ‘we only use these skills as a last resort’), and to be able to prevent themselves from using the skills when they are excited, angry or upset is not developmentally appropriate.
A parent or another adult primary caregiver is required to attend with their children because children need to see their adults learning these skills too and to have the benefit of practicing with their adults.
The Kidpower Starting Strong Parent Child Workshop is designed for the child and caregiver to have a shared experience that will help them communicate about safety and build the skills over time. This means that the child and the adult should be VERY involved in each other’s lives.
The School Program requires parent/caregiver attendance to build a common vocabulary to continue to talk about safety situations in a developmentally appropriate way.
We strongly encourage families and individuals who have had traumatic experiences to get professional counseling before coming to one of our programs. Kidpower workshops are designed to be emotionally safe and supportive but are not therapy. Our classes are often a powerful adjunct to counseling for survivors and we work well when we can be in be contact with a child’s therapist to determine readiness for class. We have extensive experience working with families that have had abuse occur and we welcome a discussion with you about your child and when a Kidpower/Teenpower class would be most appropriate.
We keep personal information about our students confidential to people outside our organization unless we have their permission or the permission of their parents or guardians to share their stories. The exception is that we are mandated reporters and are ethically committed to reporting any suspected child abuse that is not already being addressed.
Young people are different and families are different and you know what’s best for your child better than we do. Our emphasis is on skills for preventing, avoiding, de-escalating, or leaving a difficult situation. Most parents tell us that they feel better having their teens exposed for the ‘first time’ to some challenging situations in a safe, supportive, success-based, controlled environment instead of in real life. We go step-by-step, coaching students so they experience success every step of the way. The basic premise for most practices in Teenpower is that the student is moving through the world independently: walking down the sidewalk, riding public transit, going to stores or movies without their adults. Are these situations your child finds herself in frequently at this point in life, or is your family working with those issues of independence right now? If so, your child may be a good candidate for Teenpower.
Teenpower workshops are designed to address realistically the kinds of situations that most teens encounter. In order for the class to be relevant to teens and what they see and hear, we encourage our students to generate realistic role-plays in order to effectively rehearse effective solutions. If you are concerned that the content may be too advanced for your child, please call our office so that we can be very specific about course content.