What do we need to know about Inner Circles?
We need to keep in mind that giving someone close personal access to children also means that we are potentially giving them privacy and control. Privacy means being alone, without another responsible adult there. Control means that someone has more power than the child.
Safety expert Gavin de Becker, best-selling author of The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift, describes how having more privacy and control creates a higher-stakes situation, making children more vulnerable to potential abuse. A neighbor who walks by your yard with his dog, waves, and says hello to your family does not have direct access to your kids. Walking by and waving is a lower-stakes situation, especially if you or another caregiver are present, because the neighbor does not have privacy and control. If, however, your children go into the neighbor’s home to play with their dog
without you there, that becomes a higher-stakes situation because there is close personal access with privacy and control.
When adults are in charge of children, they have more control over those children. Most of the time, they use this position of power to protect children, to have fun together, and to help them to learn and grow. Adults in leadership positions, such as teachers or religious leaders, have additional
levels of power and control because of their special roles.
Young people have similar power differences within peer groups. When kids or teens are in a group on their own, power differences can occur because of age, size, strength, maturity, ability or even force of personality.
Because it is normal for some kids to experiment with negative uses of their power, adult leadership is important to ensure that a potentially higher-stakes situation does not develop between kids, including friends and siblings.
Staying aware of the impact of privacy and control on a child’s safety is important because ordinary, everyday relationships and activities often include, or quickly become, high-stakes situations. Following are some examples: