Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker

By on September 19, 2012

Protecting the Gift Book Review

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.

Stay Safe,


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  1. stephanie
    September 30, 2012

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    Nearly all of the people who say those things to me are through internet interactions, so I don’t take them too seriously overall, but I do obsess as it is in the nature of an aspie to think too much. The really ignorant people, well I just ignore them as much as I can. I can only try to give them facts 1 million times LOL, before I give it up. I used to duke it out with animal activist types online, but they never change, plus like the anti gunners, they ban you from their forum fiefdoms. No open minds to be found there…

  2. stephanie
    September 29, 2012

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    I think logically even when being emotional- I’ll stop and say to myself ” hey that emotional thing isn’t rational”, though some of the things I do I cannot help it, and can only twist my brain up wondering WHY my body/emotions do that, then try to curb these things as much as possible. When I see other people saying/doing irratonal things, I want to confront them and ask them why, or ask why they lie, or why are they trying to “cover up”. One of my worst peeves are anti gunners/ animal activists- they all share the same idiocy of idealogy, then the “sheeple” think what they say is true without questioning even the most rediculous sounding things they spout out. I’ve seen well educated people believe their tripe. Does no one question anything, but a small few of us?

    I’d say I am in a unique situation. First off I was born different. Sometimes I feel like I’m from another planet or born in the wrong era. I didn’t even know until fairly recently that I am a high functioning autistic- the “rare” female with aspergers syndrome ( it doesn’t seem so rare after subscribing to a bunch of facebook pages for aspergians- plenty of women there). There is much misunderstood about us, mostly people misunderstand and think we have no empathy, that we are dangerous and psychopathic. In recent years “experts” think we are all like the VA tech shooter, or the recent CO shooter. Cho- he was selectivly mute, so people think “autism”. Holmes- high IQ nerdy type/savant-like, must be aspergers. I’ve been told to not go around telling everyone I have aspergers and “oh yeah, I own guns”. Then I might get further judged because I enjoy hunting and trapping, and I do taxidermy. Yeah, I must be a real psycho, just like all those people who make those horrible horror films like the “Saw” series- but are they being typecast into being dangerous? What is the difference between my creativity and their creativity? But you know what? I don’t care- I will be me, as I have always been me. I call people out, I point out things others don’t notice, I think outside the box, I can hear and smell things others cannot ( my hearing can be crazy at times- like a dog or something),I am nervous in public and my constant looking around and slight twitching might be unnerving for some- but I don’t care! The one thing I want most is respect and to not be rejected because I am different.If you be-friend me and treat me like a person, I will be as loyal to you as a dog ( my fav breed of dog btw is the australian cattle dog).

    I think I’ve said enough for now! LOL

    And I like your blog- The Well Armed Woman on FB is what bought me here.

    • Ben Branam
      September 29, 2012

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      Thanks for the comment! I can’t say I know anything about autism or Aspergers. Sorry you are dealing with people being ignorant and scared are you. I don’t know if I’d share with everyone, especially if they are being ignorant towards you, it’s none of their business and if they don’t care enough to ask, maybe they aren’t friend material.

      I read tones of Carrie’s stuff over at a well armed women and have talked to her a couple times by email. She is awesome and runs a web site that I’m a little jealous of. There is just so much great stuff there!

      As for the sheeple and cover ups by the media, I just don’t understand most of it. I understand the media as they want to make money. I don’t think many of them care about the truth, they just need what will get eye balls and sell advertising. The love of money is truly the root of evil. People just kind of ignore it because it’s not their thing or they just aren’t into it. I don’t understand the people that are against freedom and liberty. I enjoy the freedoms that the Constitution protects and I wish others would enjoy them and take the personal responsibility that comes with it. I don’t know how to change the entire world right now, but I can talk to people one at a time and that just might change the world. Who knows, I’m an optimist.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. stephanie
    September 26, 2012

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    I read the “Gift of Fear” a while back and he writes about his mother shooting her stepfather when he was a kid and how he was in the other room when it happened. It was some sort of act of rage by his mother. So he was biased from the get-go. Pretty much, the ensuing anti gun vibe following, turned me off the book. A shame really, because the sections of the book dealing with action/reaction/instinct/intuition were good. I totally understand that as I seem to be a born Sheepdog.

    • Ben Branam
      September 26, 2012

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      Congrats on being a born Sheepdog, I had to work at it. Thanks for the comment. The other stuff in his book is so good that I guess I overlooked that in the “Gift of Fear” but I couldn’t overlook the entire chapter in this book.

      Some people I really respect have overlooked that bad to get to the good. My close friend Bob Mayne says “Take the best, leave the rest.” Bryan Black over at ITS Tactical (I really respect his opinion) had great things to say about “The Gift of Fear” I guess I’m just torn on the entire thing. Some people can be so smart and then throw something out of right field that makes no sense and has no logical back ground. Anyways, the first half of the book was worth reading.

      Thanks for the comment and for reading the blog.

  4. Mary
    September 20, 2012

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    I really enjoyed and learned a lot from reading The Gift of Fear and have recommended it to others. I started Protecting the Gift and could not get through it. I thought it was because my children are older, maybe there is more to it than that.It will be interesting to see what others have to say about it.

    • Ben Branam
      September 21, 2012

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      Thanks for the comment Mary. There was a lot of good stuff in the beginning of the book. I really enjoyed the chapter on worry, but still am really bothered by the stuff about guns.

  5. Martin
    September 19, 2012

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    It’s been a while since I read “The Gift of Fear” but to my recollection it was pretty clearly anti-gun as well, even going so far as to have an entire appendix devoted to the topic of “guns are bad, mmmmkay?”.

    I haven’t read “Protecting the Gift” so please take this with a grain of salt, but why do you recommend the one without reservation while giving the other a pass? Should “The Gift of Fear” now be looked at more critically given the author’s demonstrated propensity for allowing his political view to bleed through despite the data, his own company’s work, and his lack of research?

    I, like you, found “The Gift of Fear” to be full of useful information presented in compelling ways, with the notable exceptions of his opinions on firearms.

    I’d hate to disregard good work and throw the baby out with the bathwater, but neither would I want to fall victim to some variation of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect that Michael Crichton (himself notoriously antigun) described.

    • Ben Branam
      September 19, 2012

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      Martin, I agree. It’s been a while since I’ve read The Gift of Fear. I remember him sighting sources about it being more likely to shoot yourself then an intruder. I also remember some people upset about it. At the time I didn’t notice it that much and it didn’t seem so one sided. I don’t remember the appendix either. Opinion in the book is good but saying I have no political agenda and then speaking clearly politically about his opinion on gun control was one of my main problems with the section. The entire discussion in the chapter can be summed up by one sentence, “To respect their sensibilities, I am not herein challenging our so-called right to bear amrs (in whose name, by the way, more Americans have died at home than have died at war).”

      I guess the entire chapter just rubbed me the wrong way, and for someone that I so admired for his great research and train of thought on self defense issues to be so wrong, out-dated, and hypocritical, just really got to me.

      I do have reservations about taking everything as fact in his first book now. If he is ignoring research on one side of anything it makes the data and conclusion tainted. I wonder if there is anything else in his books that is one sided?

      Here is another review of his first book from someone I respect. Bryan Black from ITS Tactical. But you might be right, if you are going to read this book I would suggest you skip the chapter on Guns and read the rest.

      Thanks for the great comment and making me think. I’ll probably keep suggesting and using The Gift of Fear, but am looking for something else for protecting kids to suggest.

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