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Should 2-Year-Olds Have Lockdown Drills?

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Read Time: 3 minutes

A mom just wrote to us about her son’s first experience with a lockdown. Now that we have a COMMENTS SECTION down below, we’d love you to…comment!

A lockdown at the daycare center.

Dear Let Grow:

First of all, thank you so much for the work you have been doing! I just finished reading Free-Range Kids and it was such an eye-opener.

Since I am unsure whether I am overreacting, I would like to ask you for your opinion on this situation:

My son is turning two at the end of this month and has been going to daycare here in Australia for three weeks now.

Yesterday, they had a lockdown simulation at the childcare center, pretending a perpetrator had entered the premises. The educators gathered all children in a small locked up room and told them “Shhhh! Someone is coming.“

Does a bad man want to hurt me?

I honestly dislike the idea of my little son having to hide in a locked room, thinking that a bad person might come to get them. I find it disturbing.

I understand that there are crazy people out there and that anything can happen. But I dare to believe that the chance of somebody wanting to do something this horrible and actually making it through the high walls, fences, the security code and the staff members of a childcare center, is extremely slim.

So I don’t want them to unnecessarily instill fear in children by doing these drills.

What are your thoughts?

Tears, fears and “negative primals.”

My thoughts!

S, I very much agree with you. Thinking ahead to the absolutely worst case scenario and believing that only this kind of overwhelming fear and pessimism keeps kids safe is a defining feature of our time. It’s almost superstitious: If we act out a tragedy — and actually suffer — real tragedy will pass us over.

But there’s another, more likely, tragedy facing us, and that is raising kids to believe it’s an awful world out there. Obviously there are some sad, sick people. (Always have been. Worst school attack in America was in 1927.) Focusing on these horrors and teaching our kids that it’s a rotten world out there, where trust is for saps — that kind of outlook actually has a name. It’s called a “negative primal.”

An unintended consequence of lockdown drills.

A recent, long-term study of kids raised with negative primals like “seeing the world as dangerous keeps me safe” found that it actually does the opposite of what parents hope:

“Regardless of occupation, more negative primals were almost never associated with better outcomes. Instead, they predicted less success, less job and life satisfaction, worse health, dramatically less flourishing, more negative emotion, more depression, and increased suicide attempts.”

Jeremy Clifton and Peter Meindl

Of course schools and day care centers must take some basic precautions to keep kids safe.

But a big one should be ensuring that they don’t accidentally hurt kids’ future health and happiness by turning them negative on the world. — L


  1. DrewDrew says:

    When my parents were kids, they were on the target shooting team and brought their rifles to school with them on the bus. Teachers and high school students would routinely leave firearms in their vehicles, especially during hunting season. And yet, mass murders at school were unheard of. It was only after we turned all campuses into “gun free zones” that this started happening more frequently.

    Also, staff should be allowed to get trained and certified to carry concealed weapons at school, if they so choose. I understand that many find this distasteful, but there are already many examples of teachers dying trying to defend their students from a gunman with nothing but their bare hands, or whatever blunt or sharp objects they can get their hands on at the time. Why wouldn’t we want to even the playing field by at least giving the good guys the means to fight back? Someone with ill intent isn’t going to be stopped by a simple “no weapons” sign on the front door. The people who do obey the policy aren’t the ones we should be worried about.

  2. Beth Price-AlmeidaBeth Price-Almeida says:

    I believe that if parents are going to send their kids to school in the public school system, then there should be drills so that all kids know what to do. However, a question I have had since this became a horrible fact of life is this: WHY are they being taught to ‘hide’ under tables or in cabinets or behind desks? I understand that there is plenty to say about order and sanity, but it is well known that the hardest target to hit is a moving target and the chances of the hit being deadly are less if the ‘target’ is moving. I don’t mean to sound abrasive or uncaring, it’s the only way I can talk about it without being sick. And there is also the question of why the schools are not absolutely surrounded by armed guards. Think about it, PRISONS have armed guards and while most people will say that these guards are meant to keep prisoners in, they are also meant to protect them. Federal law says they HAVE to protect prisoners but school children are not protected by the police because they are neither incarcerated or committed. (they aren’t in prison nor are they in a mental hospital.) My family made the decision to homeschool after two years and this is why. School is compulsory, and parents will be arrested and can even have their rights taken away for not sending children to school, but they don’t get even half the protection of the worst people in society who are in our prisons? IF I were to have to stop homeschooling there would be a lot of noise about the way they (the government) view the situation. Children, ALL children deserve to be protected and I wouldn’t let mine go period, until there was something done in every state to protect these kids. Someone said you shouldn’t tell kids a bad guy is coming, but what happens when he (or she) really IS coming? How do you explain the issue to get them to do what needs doing? It is NOT okay for children to have to be scared. BUT if you only have certain choices, and that fear is the lesser of the two evils, who wouldn’t rather have their child alive and scared? Remember that 11,000 people are killed every year by drunk drivers? That you put your child in the car seat/booster seat in the car. Have they never asked why? My eight year old finally put the phrase “to keep you safe if we have an accident” together with the fact that an accident could take his life or that of a family member. Because he’s lived with it in his routine every day, it wasn’t as big a shock as you would think. And even if guns were made illegal tomorrow, criminals would still have them. Schools have become a target. Surround them with Veterans armed to the teeth and let kids be protected. If protection is outside, there’s really no reason for drills of any kind inside.

  3. KatieKatie says:

    As a preschool special education teacher, we are required to have 1 lockdown drill per school year. We also have to huddle in a bathroom,with the lights off. But what I do is tell the kids that we playing hide and seek from the principal (whom they love), and we have to super quiet and hope he doesn’t find us. If we make it to the end of the “game” and no one has opened the door, we win! We also take in an iPad and put it on mute so the kids that aren’t able to understand what we’re doing have a distraction. I HATE lockdown drills, and they make me literally sick to my stomach. However, I see them as the same as fire and tornado drills. Fires and tornados are very unlikely to happen, but we need to practice so we can be safe if it does happen. BUT – there is no reason to tell little ones that a bad guy is coming! That’s horrifying. I want my students to feel that school is a safe place. I would never tell them that.

  4. Mary GaitsMary Gaits says:

    As a parent,teacher and supervisor in an inner city setting, there is a way to introduce even toddlers to follow their teachers directions without fear so that their safety is protected. I have done this with students with special needs age 3-21.

  5. CaryCary says:

    If a lockdown drill had happened when I was in nursery school (what “daycare” used to be called in the 1950s), and they had said something about a “bad man”, or whatever the imaginary threat was, I’d have been terrified, probably crying hysterically. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I know where the blame lies. I’ll be voting for people who will deal with the mentally ill, fund the police, incarcerate criminals, and keep them there.

  6. Rosalie WittRosalie Witt says:

    It feels unnecessary until it happens to you. I went through this experience with my preschool, which had two year old’s. We practiced every other month. Full on lock down drills. Our twos had to cram into a small bathroom. I hated every single time, until we had to go into lockdown because of intruders in the building. My teachers were so thankful we had practices. No one freaked out. They went into protect mode and knew exactly what to do. It worked beautifully. The best anecdote I can share is that when families finally had access to pick up, the children shared the excitement of getting Hershey kisses at school today. That was it. They had no idea what actually happened. It’s not our fault that we have to do this. We all know where the blame lies. Be thankful your preschool is doing this and focus your feelings on voting for people who will make this less of a reality for children and youth in school.