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Book Review:
Protecting the Gift:
Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane)

Protecting the Gift

by Gavin de Becker

Softcover, 336 pages
Available from LLLI for a limited time
No. 1615-7, $11.95 (Leader Price $10.76)

Reviewed by Lani M. Siciliano
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 6, December 2004 - January 2005, p. 132.

Has a mother ever asked you for advice on selecting a day care center, nanny, or babysitter? Or maybe you have heard mothers express their fears of losing their newly walking toddler in a crowd. What about the questions you, your co-Leaders, or other mothers have regarding when a child is ready to walk to school alone or ride his bike to a friend’s house? Gavin de Becker’s book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane) is the book to recommend for all of the above scenarios.

We see and hear the AMBER alerts for abducted children, see pictures of missing children on the sides of milk cartons, and maybe have even had our own children fingerprinted at a local police safety program "just in case." DeBecker reminds us that stranger abductions are the least of our concerns. In fact, fewer than 100 US children a year (out of 70 million) are estimated to have been kidnapped by strangers. The issue isn’t strangers versus acquaintances; it is learning who to trust and who not to trust, whether we know them or not.

But all of these things reinforce our fears that the world is not a safe place, especially for our children. Many of us may feel overwhelmed by the reality of this, to the point of not doing anything constructive to truly protect ourselves or our families. Reading this book may help.

Protecting the Gift is an empowering book offering recommendations on teaching children how to stay safe from violence. To my delight, the author believes that the main source of safety is intuition. "As you understand how intuition helps protect your children," de Becker writes, "You’ll react to smoke and not wait for fire. You’ll care less about protocol and politeness, and you’ll be comfortable saying and doing what needs to be said and done." He says to trust our mothers’ intuition and listen to internal warnings while they are still whispers.

As LLL Leaders, we encourage new mothers to listen to their instincts and to trust their instincts because they know their baby best. As children get older, parents need to continue to listen to this inner voice to ensure their own safety and their children’s safety. Rather than telling themselves "it’s probably nothing," de Becker points out that "intuition about our children is always right in at least two ways: It is always based on something, and it always has your child’s best interest at heart."

Unfortunately we don’t want to believe anyone would or could hurt our child(ren) and denial protects us from this unwanted information by hiding or blocking our ability to see things as they truly are. The author lists signs of denial and discusses how we can best recognize if we are in denial already. After reading about denial, if you recognize the signs in yourself, you can peel back those layers to get closer to the truth, and get back to your instincts to prevent a problem from happening in the future. But you also don’t want to teach children to be fearful. Fearful children are easily exploited. Being afraid or experiencing excessive worry is caused by the idea that we cannot protect ourselves. We need to know that, as parents, we have the ability to deal with danger—and so do our children.

To that end, de Becker offers clear guidelines, interview questions, points to review, etc., when selecting caregivers such as nannies or babysitters, choosing a day care facility; knowing the school is safe for your child, and more. Twelve questions to help parents determine if their children are ready to be out in public on their own are outlined, as well as information on safety-training programs for children that can be done at home or school.

Much more is included in this book for parents with children from birth through adulthood. This is an ongoing reference book for parents—one that will remain on my personal bookshelf for years to come.

Lani M. Siciliano lives in Connecticut, USA with her husband, Joseph, and her three children Samuel (5), Matthew (3), and Kyra (1). They are expecting the arrival of their fourth child in 2005. Lani is the Area Conference Supervisor for LLL of Connecticut and has been a Leader for three years. Christine McNeil Montano is the Contributing Editor for Leaven Book Reviews. She lives in Connecticut, USA with her husband, Tony, and their sons, Jay and John.

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