As a way to finally stop flogging the deceased equine I’ve been working on for the past two weeks, I’d like to review an excellent book on the topic: Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker.
Like Wonder Weeks, I knew when I started this blog that I wanted to write about this book. Given the topics I’ve been discussing lately, now seemed like the best time for it.
De Becker is an expert on threat assessment and predicting violent behavior. His firm has consulted for government agencies, high-placed officials, and corporations. From what he reveals in the book about his own childhood, De Becker became familiar with most of the threats children can face at an unfortunately early age. When he turns that expertise towards the dangers facing children the result is a book full of concrete, practical information…
“Wait,” I say. “Won’t your readership think you are talking about safety like, don’t leave diaper pins on the floor and make sure slides are some mathematical equation high to prevent traumatic brain injury? Isn’t it important that first thing they understand that this is a book about keeping your kids safe from child predators and sexual abuse?”
So The Dad says, “While I finish the dishes will you write about Protecting the Gift?”
“I’ll try,” I say. That was 5 minutes ago.
About 2 hours ago LifeLock alerted me to the fact that a violent sexual offender has moved into our neighborhood about 2 blocks away. Before I read this book, I might have been tempted to freak out silently and then pretend I didn’t know. That is common. That is being a “denier” and it is dangerous for kids.
People who fixate on the wrong issues pretend that sexual abuse could not happen to their child or a child they know, or think that their money, power, or religion make them immune to such awfulness are in denial. Denial is dangerous. It robs a person of knowledge and knowledge is power. Protecting the Gift helps identify the real risks children face and how to navigate this world without being afraid. As a bonus it helps teach parents, teachers, daycare workers, and anyone else who works with kids how to raise children to be confident and capable but also protected.
When we were young parents and needing to hire a babysitter for our precious first child we did not have the alacrity to look someone in the eye and ask, “what would you do if you realized the child you were minding was masturbating?” or “Have you ever suspected that a child in your care was being sexually abused? What would you do if you suspected a child in your care was being sexually abused?” Of course we wanted our darling to have an amazing caregiver but we had no idea how to get from home wanted ad to actual safe, reliable sitter. De Becker’s book opened our eyes to the importance of discussing these taboo things with anyone who was going to be a consistent care giver for our children. It also informed our process for referencing of babysitters.
De Becker also lays out all the prerequisite skills a kid needs to safely navigate the world alone. How does one know that a kid is ready for the wide open world of shopping at the mall with friends at 12, going to a slumber party at 9, or being left at a playdate under the other parents’ supervision at 4?
Lastly, and most importantly, Protecting the Gift talks about intuition and instinct. About honoring it and acting on it even when our societal preference for nicety and quiet have to be thrown out the window. It gives a permission that is lacking for most people—the permission to actively and without hesitation act to keep children safe.
This should be required reading for every parent. End of story.
(That was a million times better than my first crack at this. Thanks, Dear!)