A Parent's Guide to Streetproofing Children
Cara Peterman was a librarian from Peterborough, Ontario.
Reports of a black Trans Am with a male driver who offers children candy and invites them for a drive have been appearing in our local newspaper for the last few weeks. Since the number of events of this type seems to be increasing, I was pleased to receive this timely book and discover what it offers beyond the usual “Don’t talk to strangers” kind of advice to protect my children.
The authors, both fathers, found that their attempts to find “an organized summary of practical suggestions for avoiding the tragedies they read about in the newspapers” yielded no results. In the process of writing this book they consulted police and other professionals and relied on their own experiences as parents. They have compiled a good many useful suggestions for streetproofing children, starting with the point that parents must get out into the street with their kids to explore the kinds of dangers lurking there and to help plan methods of escape and means of avoiding potential disasters.
Throughout the book the authors stress the necessity of developing good communication skills for use with children and teenagers, and methods of increasing a child’s sense of esteem and worth so that he or she can trust his own judgment as to what is a potentially dangerous situation. It was disappointing that they did not point out the need for parenting courses as a method of enhancing these skills. However, some of their practical suggestions (such as the use of identification cards, a family password for emergencies, the organization of an “at home” information centre to inform family members of each other’s whereabouts, and strategies for dealing with missing children) are well documented. The text tends to ramble and is often repetitious, so that these gems seem to be few and far between. Brief chapter summaries with key points highlighted would add to the usefulness of this book.
Some of the repeated jargon — such as “street-proofing,” “earproofing,” “baby-childproofing,” “peopleproofing,” “sportproofing,” and even “coach-proofing” — wears a bit thin. It was a relief to find a chapter entitled “When a friend goes another way” rather than friendproofing.
Suggestions about how teens might handle alcohol, drugs, unruly parties and the enticements of cults were useful, although not all the authors’ alternatives were realistic, given the undeniable fact of peer pressure.
The concept of Block Parents is given only very minimal coverage. In many communities the Block Parents have an effective emergency search procedure worked out with the municipal police department, which would eliminate the procedures outlined by the authors in their chapter on how to organize an emergency search in the case of a lost or missing child. It might be useful to outline these procedures and offer suggestions as to how they could be initiated in neighbourhoods where they are lacking.
Another objection to this book, which is published as a trade paperback, was that it fell apart and peeled right off the spine on a first reading. It would be impossible to recommend such shoddy quality for the kind of use which libraries would make of such materials.
There are so many useful suggestions in this book as to how you can help your child to develop a healthy skepticism that it’s hard to be totally negative about its values. In particular, the concept that demonstrating your deep concern and love for a child is the best way to streetproof a child is difficult to fault. Practical, easy suggestions such as playing “what if” and sharing informative newspaper stories make this book worthwhile reading material for all parents. However, the writing and the format of the book should have been tightened up and presented in such a way that parents could more readily extract the practical suggestions it offers.