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I firmly believe in the importance of learning how to defend yourself and your family.
The ability to defend everyone important to you provides peace of mind and comfort that, no matter what happens, you’ve done all you can to ensure you and yours will survive.
Every adult should have this level of empowerment.
But what about your children?
The world is inherently and unsafe and, despite your best efforts, your kids will encounter dangerous situations without your presence.
I’m not necessarily talking about giving children self-defense tools, though that is a possibility.
At least your kids should know how to handle certain items safely, such as firearms, to prevent tragic accidents.
And, if your child is mature enough, you can gradually introduce them and train them how to use appropriate self defense weapons.
We’ll cover why this is important, how to start teaching them about safety, and even talk about what self defense weapons are legal for minors.
Why Is It Important for Your Child to Learn about Self Defense Weapons?
Plenty of parents send their children to martial arts schools.
These are great and have many benefits, such as teaching self control, instilling confidence, and giving these kids the appropriate toolbox to get themself away from danger.
However, martial arts are not the be-all and end-all of self defense skills for anybody, whether adult or youth.
Let me explain using a close family’s daughter.
This seventeen-year-old has osteogenesis imperfecta, also called brittle bone disease. She’s in a wheelchair whenever she’s out of bed because her bones cannot support her weight, even though she’s a wisp of a girl.
She still does normal teenage girl things such as going to school, hanging out with friends, and generally being a pest to her mother.
What would happen if she were home alone when some burglars break in?
Well, in her case, shooting is one of her favorite hobbies.
She knows where her father keeps the shotgun. She knows how to use it and, importantly, when and when not to use it.
Despite her disability, she’s effectively at the same physical level as a 250-pound male intruder.
Now, firearms are not the only potential self-defense tool (for children or adults) but the family has evaluated their situation and deemed them to be the proper choice for her.
But that’s not all.
Notice how I mentioned that she knows when not to use a firearm?
Teaching your kids about the weapons you keep in your home is a wise choice, even if you don’t want them to pick up said weapons.
This is so important I’ll state it again:
If you keep a weapon in the house, your children need to know how to safely handle it.
We’ll get into why that’s so important shortly.
But first, let’s help decide just how much you will teach your child how to use that weapon.
The First Question: Is Now the Right Time to Empower Your Child?
Only you know your child’s maturity level and can know if they can be trusted with self defense weapons, whether it’s a household tool or a personal item.
When I was sixteen someone broke into my father’s truck and stole several thousand dollars worth of items. That night, he handed me a pistol, and told me to sleep with it under my bed.
He knew he could trust me with that firearm because I had been demonstrating my ability to safely handle guns at the shooting range since I was six years old.
(I still have that pistol, though now it lives in my gun safe!)
I know another family where the father wanted to test his eldest son’s commitment to firearm safety before buying the kid his first shotgun.
He did this by removing all ammunition from the house, handing a shotgun to his son, and having the kid maintain possession of the gun in the house for an entire week.
If the son could hold onto the firearm for that time without letting anybody pass in front of the muzzle even once, he’d buy the kid his first gun.
Naturally, the younger brother took this as a challenge and tried to jump in front of the muzzle as much as possible but the older brother paid attention and always kept that gun safe!
A week later, he had his own shotgun, and to this day has never flagged another soul.
The point is that you know your kids so you’re the one best able to judge whether they can be trusted with tools to defend themselves.
This is slightly different from teaching them what to do if they find a gun, knife, or other weapon, which is something every child should be taught as soon as they are able to understand the concept.
Yes, even if you never plan on having a weapon in your house.
They might find a gun at a friend’s house. What will they do if you’ve never taught them what to do?
How to Safely Introduce Weapons to Kids
The first step of safely introducing weapons to your children is to sit them down and talking to them about weapons, the consequences of playing with one, and what to do if you find one.
However, this is only the first step.
Children learn weapon safety best if you instruct them, model how to behave around one, then test how they react to a weapon1.
This hands-on training is much more effective than just talking to your kids about firearm safety.
You don’t have to actually possess a lethal tool to do this. A fake version is good enough, so long as the child is able to understand that it represents a real weapon.
As you explain how to handle the item, demonstrate this to your young one. Then have them handle the weapon and show you that they are learning what you’re teaching them.
Several days later, conduct a test of what you taught them, without telling them beforehand.
Leave out a dull knife or unloaded firearm where your child is going to find it, as if you had forgotten it by accident.
Observe how they react to the weapon (a nanny cam can make this easier) and evaluate this response.
You’ll quickly know whether they’ve learned and internalized what you’ve taught them.
If they play with the weapon then make sure anything dangerous is locked up and again teach them about safety while modeling appropriate behavior.
If they reacted properly and safely then you know they listened. Still, you should repeat this test a week or month later, just to make sure it sticks.
Safety is a skill and, like any skill, it needs to be practiced to ensure the knowledge sticks.
If you decide they should have their own weapon, make sure they are behaving safely not only at home but at school or with friends.
Talk with teachers and their friend’s parents to learn if your kid is acting up outside your house.
Some children pretend to be perfect at home but act differently away from you and you need to know if this is the case before trusting them with a self defense weapon.
Also, give them the opportunity to practice with weaponry in a controlled environment.
This can be the shooting range, martial arts dojo, or just some bonding time in the backyard with bow and arrows.
Once you’ve evaluated your kid’s behavior both supervised and unsupervised, and are sure they know how to safely handle weaponry, you can think about giving them access to a self defense weapon.
Be sure to talk it over with your partner first!
Self Defense Priorities to Teach Your Children
Just like with your own self defense, teach your kids more than just how to use a weapon to defend themselves.
Using any sort of lethal item is a last effort.
Safety begins before your kid gets into danger. They need to know what makes a situation dangerous or not so they can avoid getting into danger in the first place.
Then they should know how to escape such a situation.
It greatly helps to foster a sense of trust between parent and child. If they know they can call you and you will always come pick them up, your kid will be less likely to willingly follow their friends into something that may be unsafe.
Teaching your children safety is an entire process that’s beyond the scope of this article2.
However, self defense weapon use comes after your child has a good foundation.
Good Self Defense Weapons for Minors to Carry
As I’ve mentioned before, firearms are the Great Equalizer, and they will eliminate any difference in physical ability between your youths and any attackers.
However, basically no kid should be packing heat!
So, let’s cover some items your kids can use to defend themselves, at least enough to distract an adult so the little one can slip away.
Some self defense weapons are not appropriate for children not because of the weapon itself but because of the legal status around the item.
Pepper spray, for example, is a common self-defense tool. However, in some states, you have to be 18 in order to legally use pepper spray!
Keep in mind your local laws when buying any of the following weapons for your minor.
Striking Tools (Kubotans, Tactical Pens, and Flashlights)
Perhaps the simplest weapon you can give your child is a striking weapon.
They’re also the least likely to get your kid in trouble with an authority figure, so long as you’re smart about the one you pick.
A striking tool concentrates force and lets small hands deliver surprisingly effective blows to vulnerable parts on an attacker’s body.
This is great for momentarily disrupting whatever the person is trying to do to your child so they can escape to safety.
Kubotans are in vogue as the go-to striking weapon on the internet, though because they are only useful as a weapon, these are also the most problematic.
Tactical pens and sturdy flashlights, especially with aggressive bevels, are much smarter choices.
What kind of kid doesn’t like having a cool pen? And every child should have a reliable source of light in case they can’t get home until after dark.
Keep in mind that these weapons require to be used properly.
Make sure your kid is trained in their use. Defense-minded martial arts facilities are a good source of this knowledge.
Flashlights have another advantage in that, if they are bright enough, they can be used to blind and disorient the person attempting to harm your kid.
No physical contact or training necessary!
A slingshot is the classic youth’s ranged weapon.
They allow children to practice dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
A cheap slingshot is only good for knocking down empty cans. A good slingshot, however, is strong enough to hunt small game, such as rabbits.
And a steel ball bearing to the face is enough to disorient or even stop someone who means harm to your child.
Make sure to select a high-quality slingshot, not a cheap, disposable model.
Pepper sprays require almost no strength or skill to use and so are a good choice for trustworthy kids who won’t play with the canister.
As with all non-lethal weapons, pepper spray won’t permanently stop an attacker.
However, it can give your child enough time to escape and call for help.
A potential downside to pepper sprays is that many states prohibit minors from possessing this tool, let alone using it in self defense.
Pepper sprays such as the keychain model by SABRE can be a good choice for teenagers, however!
A personal alarm may not be technically a weapon.
However, the loud noise can discourage criminals and attract help.
These alarms can be as simple as an emergency hiking whistle worn around your child’s neck.
These are easy to use by even small kids.
Older children can carry keychain-mounted personal alarms, which can get loud enough to be disorienting.
Self Defense Weapons Okay to Bring to School
Basically, if it’s a weapon, your kid will get in trouble for bringing it to school.
Which means that, if you want your kid to be safe on their walk to and from school, they need to carry something that’s not obviously a weapon.
Flashlights and subtle tactical pens might be an option here, provided your kid has the discretion not to show off to their friends.
Personal alarms and whistles can also be school-appropriate, so long as the kid in question doesn’t decide they want to pull a prank on their teacher!
Safety is an important lesson to teach your children.
Due to the realities of the world we live in, teaching your kids safety should include educating them about weaponry.
Whether or not you let your child practice with or have access to weapons depends on your household and your child’s maturity.
Regardless, they need to know what to do in case they come across a knife or gun left out by some inattentive adult.
And there are certain tools, such as personal alarms, tough flashlights, and even pepper spray, that may be suitable for your teenager to carry as they go about their life.
Whatever you choose, however, you need to impart the importance of safety to your children!
What Self Defense Weapons Are Legal for Minors?
The self defense weapons you can give your children depends on the state.
Generally, if a device is considered a weapon in the eyes of the law, it’s not legal for your children to use it.
For example, California’s penal code states: “No person who is a minor shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or tear gas weapons.”3
This prohibits them from carrying pepper spray if they are under 16.
Batons are similarly prohibited in California, as are “any leaded cane, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slungshot,” which also covers striking tools such as kubatons.
This doesn’t stop your kid from being able to use a heavyweight pen or flashlight to jab a criminal in the gut, though.
And a slingshot is a toy, not a weapon (until you sling shot in an attacker’s face), so kids can typically carry them.
What Non-Firearm Self Defense Weapons Are Good for Teenagers?
Teenagers may be able to possess self defense weapons prohibited to younger children.
Returning to the pepper spray example above, California’s penal code also states: “…a minor who has attained the age of 16 years may purchase and possess tear gas or a tear gas weapon…” so long as they have written consent from their parent4.