Monday, July 06, 2009

Protecting the Gift

Last summer, my sister was reading Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear when we were on vacation. When she finished, I picked it up and read it. I found it helpful, and mentally put his next book Protecting the Gift on my 'to-read' list.

I finally remembered to pick it up from the library and read it. I found it very insightful, and helpful in thinking clearly about my children's safety. De Becker makes this point about making sure your children are safe in the first chapter: "[Y]ou can't be sure. There are, however, things you can be certain about. You can be certain every important decision is made with the best information. You can be certain you've educated yourself, certain you've made the best choice possible with the time and resources available. Above all, you can be certain you will listen to yourself, certain you'll give your hesitations a moment's consideration rather than later regret that you didn't." (pg 9)

De Becker walks his readers through strategies parents tend to use, like worry or overthinking, and encourages them to develop their intuition and act on it. Then he discusses circumstances in which children can be vulnerable.

I particularly appreciate his discussion of talking to strangers - instead of emphasizing "stranger danger," he recommends teaching your child to evaluate people with whom they come in contact. "Children raised to assume all strangers might be dangerous do not develop their own inherent skills of evaluating behavior. ... Fear of people is really the fear that we can't predict their behavior." (pg 83).

De Becker argues that we CAN predict violent behavior, and teaches us how in this book, and in The Gift of Fear.

Valuable points in Protecting the Gift include how to evaluate and interview potential babysitters, nannies, daycare centers, and schools. He also gives parents a letter template to send to the daycare center and/or school outlining expectations on how the parent and the administrators will work together to keep children safe.

De Becker also covers teaching teenage girls - and boys - how to protect themselves. He also encourages parents to step in, be unpopular, and make the right choices for their teenagers... and tells several stories to illustrate his point.

I appreciate the point he makes toward the end of the book about the importance of father's roles in children's lives - especially teenage boys. "[Nonviolence can be taught] and most effectively by fathers. Unfortunately, fathers are undervalued in America-virtually to the point of being an oppressed minority. That poses a problem for everyone, since the absence of a father in a boy's life is one of the predictors of future violence. ... While I've directed much of this book toward mothers, it is fathers who can most favorably influence a boy's behavior." (pg 239)

It was interesting read this book after reading Dr. Walt Larimore's book Bryson City Secrets. The combination taught me a lot about following my intuition and making hard decisions if I'm hesitant about leaving my children somewhere or with someone.

I said at the end of my post on The Bi-Polar Child that everyone who has contact with a child should read that book. I feel the same way about this book. Especially if you are a worrier, or tend to worry, you need to read this book. Worry is unproductive and can be detrimental to a child's safety. However, developing your evaluation skills and acknowledging your intuition not only can prevent you from being a victim, but your child as well.

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