So imagine my horror when Youngest and a friend actually turned toward a strange car that had stopped on the street in front of the house. Luckily we grown-ups were sitting on the porch and one dad jumped out shouting, "Hey! Back up!" as he walked toward the vehicle harboring a quite-elderly gentleman who was offering up a stuffed poodle. Some respectfully irritated words were spoken and the man drove off. Police were notified and went to reaffirm that offering toys to children is unacceptable behavior.
We - the collective of neighbors - had many intense words with the kids about strangers. Again. Many months passed, we kept our children without incident. Then the man came back.
Just yesterday while at work I received a call. The kids were running through a sprinkler in the yard of a neighbor and a car which had cruised down the street at least 2 times previously stopped in front of said house. Youngest proudly reported, "I didn't even look back after I saw him. I ran straight for ---'s front door." In fact all three children hustled inside, herded by the 12 year-old next door and as soon as the man drove off, they ran across the street to a parent's house to report the incident.
It turns-out Teen and a neighbor had noticed the car a day previously and took video of his car and license plate. The police were called and he was arrested from his car which according to a witness had many toys lying on the front seat...for loitering...since he didn't actually have opportunity to talk to any of the kids.
We are thrilled that given a second chance all kids did all things right (except Teen and Boy who didn't even tell us about a suspicious car let alone that they filmed it! - that has been dealt with) But, sadly we do not live in a world where second chances are the norm. To my greatest relief, in this case they did.
So, the kids got lots of positive reinforcement - they even all rode in the police car to identify the car/man. Then we began walking the narrow tightrope of reinforcing vigilance without fear... A difficult line to be sure.