A close friend gave me this book to read. I have a three-year old and am trying to find better and better ways to protect him, along with things I can share with you. Gavin De Becker is head of Gavin De Becker and Associates, a company that does protective services for public figures, threat assessments, and training. He has written a couple books and been on Oprah and other talk shows. I found his first book, “The Gift of Fear” before I saw him on Oprah and thought it was amazing. Later, I read “Fear Less,” about terrorism after 9/11. I found it boring and written like it was just something to put out after 9/11 to keep the peace and get his name out as an expert on terrorism. The book wasn’t bad, just repetitive and boring. This book, “Protecting the Gift” was written in 1999. It’s a little old, but none of the material felt dated while I was reading it.
The first half of the book was amazing. Right up there with “The Gift of Fear”, which I suggest everyone read. De Becker goes over personal stories that illustrate how to protect your kids, using the gift of fear, and has statements of people that were victims of crimes.
His first chapter is about being certain your kid is okay. To the point that many people deny that their kids have ever done anything wrong. Looking logically, we all know our kids aren’t prefect, and the fact that they can be hurt or do something self destructive is the start of protecting them. He did an entire chapter on worrying, how it gets you nowhere, and how it can even be self destructive.
He had a great section on how kids view the world, what strangers are and how we teach our kids about them. He also talked about the truth of strangers. Most kids that are hurt, molested, or kidnapped are done so by people the parents know. He gave a simple rule that I have started to use; be slow to let people into your kids’ lives and quick to send them away. In other words, make sure you know people before they are left alone with your young kids, know what the parents of your older kids’ friends are like, and be quick to keep people you think may not be right away from your kids.
He did sections on choosing baby sitters, your kids going over to a friend’s house, your kids being out in public, and what sexual predators act like. The book was outstanding until I got to the chapter entitled “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Smith & Wesson.”
Of course, there should be a section about children and firearms. Guns are a part of our world and kids need to know more about them than what they see on TV. I thought he’d cite sources for teaching your kids about guns and ways to introduce your kids to guns. Nope! He started the chapter with a couple horrible stories about kids getting guns, and then goes to an essay by Mark Twain written in 1923. The essay, called “Advice to Youth,” is a great bit of knowledge from the old writer to youth of the day. One of seven paragraphs in the essay is about guns. The essay is set up with a flow of don’t do this because… The paragraph referenced starts “Never handle firearms carelessly.” Then goes on about how bad it could be. De Becker only cites the end of the paragraph on guns.
He talks about not being political, but says, “let me be clear, I favor enhanced gun safety requirements” (P223). He does mention that people have used guns to protect themselves, but discredits this research, saying it doesn’t count. He cites a story about a homeowner standing at the top of the stairs with a gun yelling down at intruders to leave. Since the intruders left without seeing the gun, the gun really didn’t help protect the home. Since these cases are included, he says the research doesn’t count.
After that chapter, I found the rest of the book hard to swallow. I was so appalled by how wrong the chapter was and how misleading the Mark Twain quote was. He also said he was not going to be political but even included in the appendix a letter telling firearms companies to be more responsible for what their products do. He gives the letter and suggests that you sign it and send it to all the major manufacturers and includes their addresses in the book.
I was also saddened by how the rest of his knowledge could be that one-sided. So now I am fact checking the rest of his books to ensure that he did his due diligence before writing the books (reading psychology stuff is really boring for me). I also found it quite hypocritical that he is so against guns being deadly yet has many employees that use them as part of their jobs. He now has lots of pictures of people doing firearms training on his web site and does training for bodyguards that use weapons.
So, if you want to know what I think of the book, I barely made it through after the chapter on firearms. I was greatly saddened by someone I thought was a true academic on self defense, that analyzed the data and gave his suggestions based on the data and his own experience. But this book just showed that his political view came through despite the data, his own company’s work, and his lack of research. It makes it hard to trust his other research and conclusions. John Lott’s book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” had already been published and was making a huge stir in the industry two years prior to this book being published.
I would pass on this book. I will continue to find great books to suggest, but this one isn’t worth the frustration to read.