Are There Really Lessons to Learn From The Jaycee Abduction?

First off, my heart goes out to Jaycee Dugard, her daughters, her parents, step-parents — everyone in her circle. She was kidnapped 18 years ago and kept imprisoned since then, bearing her rapist/captor two daughters who were also imprisoned until a few days ago, when Jaycee walked into a police station.

This is, of course, every parent’s — every human’s — worst nightmare and her story will  be seared into our memory  forever, along, alas, with the inevitable “advice” we’re now getting on how to avoid this same fate. Advice that makes it seem like abduction/rape/enslavement  is something we just have to be ever-prepared for, like the possibility of an overcharge on our credit card bill. Like it’s a fate we can avoid with some simple tips.

But as Trevor Butterworth at the organization has pointed out: Preparing for very unlikely events is impossible — it’s like preparing for the possiblity of being hit by a frozen turkey through the car window while you’re driving on the expressway. Yes, that is something that really happened, at least once. But should you live your life always watching out for flying turkeys? That would be inconvenient, if not insane, because what could you do? Never drive on the expressway again? Get your car window replaced with lead? Sure, you couldn’t see through it. But at least you’d be protected from frozen airborne Butterballs!

Here’s one post-Dugard advice article that suggests that, from now on, we simply “never go anywhere alone.” That’s not asking too much, is it?

This is just the kind of ridiculous suggestion that leads to ridiculous situations, like parents hauled in for “negligence” for letting their kid walk solo to soccer (or wait in a car!). It leads to folks trumping any Free-Range notion with, “Look what happened to Jaycee Dugard!”

“Your child could be abducted just like Jaycee Dugard. Learning from the Jaycee Dugard situation and protecting your kids from predators like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido is vital to the health and well-being of your child.”

No, what’s really vital to the well-being of your child is him or her not growing up convinced that stepping  out the  front door  is the equivalent of stepping into a viper-filled pit. What’s vital to the health of your children is their learning to make their own playdates, organize a game of four-square, talk to people instead of being terrified of them. Please do teach your kids to run from anyone trying to lure them away, should that rare thing happen. But teach them to talk to the rest. That’s how they learn stuff, and make friends. That’s how they become human.

“It’s sad our children have to grow up in a world where they have to worry about people like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido. All we can do is learn from this tragedy.”

No, I’m afraid, we cannot. Law enforcement officials may be able to learn a thing or two.  They may learn to follow up better on missed parole visits. They may learn to pare down the list of sex offenders from the 674,000 in California to the ones that truly pose a risk,  so theycan concentrate their resources on rapists, instead of guys who peed in public, or had sex at 19 with a girlfriend a few years underage.

But there is no lesson to be learned from Jaycee’s ordeal except that sometimes, terrible things happen to innocent people, randomly. In our blame-, lawsuit- and silly advice-obsessed country, it’s a lesson we find hard to accept.

 — Lenore

80 Responses

  1. I saw this story and thought of your site. I know that this remarkable reunion will spark much fear in parents today. As you said, you cannot prepare to prevent such a random act. I cannot prepare to jump in front of a speeding car to pull a child from its path other than to picture it, imagine what I should do should that situation arise, and then move ON with my life. The same thing with child abduction. I can picture it, imagine how I should react should such a situation arise, and then Move ON with my life.

  2. The Associated Content article was just a chance for someone to try to make a little money. Clearly not fact checked. This poor girl’s stepfather SAW the abduction. He pedaled after her on his bike. She was with a parent. How much safer could she have been?

  3. When I heard about this yesterday, I thought, “I wonder what Lenore will say.” This is just what I predicted. I only wish you had a forum as prominent as the Nancy Graces and Jane Velez-Mitchells of the world.

  4. I’ve been following this, and I cry for the kid and the parents everytime I read something about it. The 3 things I thought. 1) Garrido apparently was arrested in 1976 for kidnapping a woman in the Lake Tahoe area, sentenced to 50 years and 5+life, and paroled in 1988, so our justice system suck. 2) The parole officers suck for basically just “phoning it in” whenever they went to check on him. 3) The police suck because they got a call in 2006 saying there were kids living in the backyard and Garrido was psychotic, and when they went to the house, Garrido convinced them not to search the premises.

    The best thing to learn (besides all that) is to somehow teach your kid, without scaring them half to death, that in the very rare case something like this does happen, to try to get away no matter what happens, and that you’ll always be looking for them. But I’m not sure how to talk about that to a kid without making it sound dire (I have a few years since mine is just a baby right now).

  5. and if i’m not mistaken, she *wasn’t* alone when she was abducted. just how big a posse do my kids need to travel with, anyway?

  6. Amen. I found your site a few days ago when I was trying to determine if I was a bad parent for letting my four-year-old ride her bike down the 1/2 block to the end of our sidewalk. We’d had the stranger talk, she knew the drill, and she stays out of the street. And I check on her every couple of minutes. And yet, I had three people stop at our house. One pulled into my driveway and was getting out of her truck to come find me when I came out to talk to her (I was aware enough of what was going on outside to know there was a strange truck in my driveway).

    I want to foster independence in my children, and I do tend to worry about crimes of opportunity if the wrong person was driving by at the wrong time. But when I stop and remind myself of the statistics, I realize that if something like that is going to happen, it’s just going to happen. Period. And I know it’s preaching to the choir on this site, but we do our children no justice by making them into incompetent, fearful children that live in the bubble.

  7. Michelle–I think there are times when it presents itself for discussion, like this being in the news. Sometimes there is an Amber Alert on the radio or on the Interstate signs that leads to the discussion. I don’t do a formal, sit-down kind of chat.

    I tell my kids that there is almost no chance that this will happen, BUT if it ever does 1) Mommy will never, ever stop looking for you 2) If someone hurts you and tells you not to tell anyone because they will hurt your family, don’t believe it. I can take care of myself. 3) Most people are good and wonderful if you tell someone that you are being harmed or threatened, that person will most likely help you get to me.

    Something else we do is when we are out, I say, “If you needed help and could not see me, who here would you ask?” I teach them to find a mommy. “Is there anytime you should leave this area with anyone but mommy?” No, you never leave with someone else.

    My kids are not fearful. They are not cautious enough about unknown people, IMO, even after having the talk a lot. I know families who have NOT had these talks because they have fearful children, and they worry that this kind of talk would push them over the edge. In the end, a lot depends on your child.

  8. Ahhhh… I’ve been waiting for your take on this Lenore! And, I agree whole heartedly.

    This poor girl and her family have suffered horribly, and the only good thing is that their stoy turned out better than many kidnapping cases (with her being reunited with her family 19 years later!)

    But as a poster above noted- she was kidnapped as she walked down the street WITH HER FATHER WATCHING from the front yard of their house!

    Short of keeping our children on leashes (which sadly is not unheard of) this could not have been prevented.

    My prayers go out to the Dugard family.

  9. “Your child could be abducted just like Jaycee Dugard. Learning from the Jaycee Dugard situation and protecting your kids from predators like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido is vital to the health and well-being of your child.”

    What’s so horrible and wrong about this statement is the author has now blamed the parents for what happened to their daughter. As if they have not been through enough grief and (I’m sure) guilt, they’re now having it heaped on their heads again as do-gooders point at them and say “Don’t do what these parents did, or your child may suffer an unimaginable fate!”. Awful.

  10. More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s all about having a false sense of control. If you do X thing, Y thing, and Z thing, the bad thing won’t happen to you kid. It’s so tempting, but ultimately pointless.

  11. “But there is no lesson to be learned from Jaycee’s ordeal except that sometimes, terrible things happen to innocent people, randomly. In our blame-, lawsuit- and silly advice-obsessed country, it’s a lesson we find hard to accept.”

    Well-put, and the entire essay is well-written. Thanks, Lenore.

  12. @Holly

    “More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s all about having a false sense of control. If you do X thing, Y thing, and Z thing, the bad thing won’t happen to you kid. It’s so tempting, but ultimately pointless.”

    I agree with you, here. I have also seen people suffer mightily because they held tight to the illusion of “control” – and when things crashed down around them, despite their efforts, they were devastated. Hey, I’ve been there myself.

    You are right, though – in the case of our children, whom we love so very much – I think it IS tempting.

  13. A few thoughts on the article-

    “Jaycee Dugard was one of the lucky ones.” How is being enslaved and confined for 18 years lucky? True, she’s alive, but do we want to agree with the idea that ANY fate is better than death?

    “Parents need to protect their children like never before.” Really? This happened 18 years ago, and as we free-rangers know, the world is getting safer, not more dangerous.

    “Have your child call 911 and scream out what they see if they are abducted.” Somebody watched ‘Taken,’ which was excellent, btw.

    “Had Jaycee Dugard been with a group of friends, her abductors Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido may not have stopped to pick her up.” Or they might have picked her or some other little girl from the edge of the group. If it hadn’t been Jaycee, it would have eventually been someone. This was not a random crime. There’s no lesson here. Sure, a group is safer, but that’s no excuse for teaching our children to be afraid if they happen to be flying solo (just not in a small sailboat around the world).

    Here’s what really cracks me up. It’s the author’s bio. “I am Financial Analyst/Graduate student living in the state of Tennessee. I have an active CPA license and am also a Certified Fraud Examiner. When I am not working, writing, or reading, I am spending time with my husband Davie.”

    No mention of kids (prolly afraid to make them a target if they exist) so we’ll assume Meg doesn’t have any. Meg is an accountant, folks. Not an officer of the law, not an expert of anything having to do with crime or children. Or crimes against children. Why would anyone sane pay any attention to her lessons?

  14. You’re never 100% safe. But people won’t accept that. This is such a freak strange thing that happened. It isn’t exactly happening all over the place. I feel horrible for the people involved, but you’re more likely to be hit by a sudden meteor falling from the sky. Even in your house! And yet, people don’t seem to worry about that..

  15. If it hadn’t been Jaycee, it would have eventually been someone.

    Exactly. There’s a case my mother likes to talk about, years ago, where a woman was, it was discovered after the fact, stalking another woman and her baby and snatched the baby in the parking lot as his mother turned to put the groceries in the car. And people blamed the mother! Not the kidnapper, the mother!

    And every time she tells this story I point out before she gets to it – if this woman was so determined to snatch a baby, much less THIS baby, there wasn’t much that coulod be done to prevent it. Once you take your reasonable precautions (and bending over while your child is *right there* isn’t unreasonable) you have to just live your life. What these people keep suggesting isn’t living, it’s surviving, and not very happily. Useful advice if you’re a few weeks in a war zone, maybe, but not good advice if you’re living for any period of time… anywhere!

  16. >So many parents – just like Jaycee Dugard’s parents – >think that the nightmare of losing a child could never >happen to them.

    The author obviously has not been around modern parents very much. As the parent of three young children, I can assure her that every parent thinks that it could happen to their child, every day.

  17. Articles like this are why I hate Associated Content. I’m sure there’s decent stuff hidden in there, but I find it’s mostly horrible advice, horribly written. Jeez…she couldn’t have one of her English-major friends give it a quick read before submitting it?

  18. As Michelle said above, “The best thing to learn (besides all that) is to somehow teach your kid, without scaring them half to death, that in the very rare case something like this does happen, to try to get away no matter what happens, and that you’ll always be looking for them. But I’m not sure how to talk about that to a kid without making it sound dire (I have a few years since mine is just a baby right now).”

    Does anyone have an idea of how to do this? I, too, have young children and am stumped about how to talk to them about trusting that people are good but simultaneously teaching them how to handle dangerous situations.

  19. @Christina – you can start by watching The Safe Side – Stranger Safey DVD. My boys, 5 & 7, love to get it from the library. It’s a good discussion starter and it’s not scary – a little silly, but not at all scary. Instead of using the term “stranger” the classify people as “safe-side adults,” “kinda knows” and “don’t knows.”

  20. This story broke the day after I attended middle school orientation with my daughter. Within the huge packet of information they gave us is a list of safety tips. Most of these are good – report any incidents to the bus driver (the kids take city buses), walk in gorups, tell a school official or parent if something happens to you so they can help you deal with it.

    However, in this list is “Do not talk to strangers – If approached by a stranger RUN IMMEDIATELY to the nearest store or crossing guard.” (Not “if you feel nervous,” “if somthing seems strange”, “trust your gut” but “if you are approached.”) Also, “Walk against traffic so you cannot be followed. It takes time for a driver to turn around. . . ”

    The tips sheet also notes that the police will review their “Step AWay for Safety” curriculum with the students. This makes me a little nervous, but I’m reluctant to bring this up with the school administration because a couple of years ago a middle school girl did get murdered on her way home from school. The crime is still unsolved, although police suspect that the perpetrator may have been a man they arrested for accosting two other middle school girls later that year. The girl was walking home before school officially let out for the day. She was usually let out early because she was being harassed by other kids on her way home. (If I remember correctly, she was a former slacker who had decided to focus on school, which the kids who were harassing her resented, but that’s an issue for another blog.)

    So, besides the Jaycee Dugard abduction being in people’s minds, there’s a very real fear around this school that’s not completely irrational. Given the situation, I think it’s a good idea for the police to offer this curriculum, but how do I make sure that it is somthing that empowers the kids rather than makes them more fearful? I should mention that I am a middle class professional, but the school is classified as “high poverty” so there’s also the issue of me being perceived by the administration and other parensts as naive in my privileged lifestyle.

  21. @ Christina – My kids take a safety course that is given by a local funeral parlor every year. It’s all about practical tips not instilling fear. It’s also presented in a very kid-friendly way with lots of prizes for participation and a pizza dinner after. Also, I think a lot of it comes from life. Your kids are always watching you and how you respond to different people in different situations and they’ll pick that up. I think another big thing is lettting your child know early on that you will trust their instinct. Don’t make children hug someone if they act reticent, don’t make them converse with a stranger whom is making your child act shyer than normal (without letting them be rude or completely anti-social). This will validate their intuition. I don’t really discuss dangers of the world with my kids and this one story of my daughter always sticks out in my mind.

    She and my son were out riding their bikes one day. J’s helmet had broken so he was wearing his goalie mask. A guy pulled over, rolled down his window, and asked J if he wanted a real helmet. G got nervous and told J not to talk but to turn around and ride in the opposite direction (just like she had been taught in her safety course!) Yet later that day she came out of the grocery store with a bouquet of flowers. One of the workers had been giving away the old bouquets and asked her if she wanted one. They discussed gardening for a few moments and she left. My 11 yo was perfectly capable of assessing the 2 situations and following her instincts in each case. That’s all we can really ask. Will their instincts always be correct? Probably not but it’s a good start.

  22. MaeMae: Great advice. Although it took me a minute to get past the words: My kids take a safety course that is given by a local FUNERAL PARLOR …

  23. I know, I know. It did me too. The reason we went to the first one was because if you attended the class you got free tickets to the Syracuse Crunch hockey game. As we are big hockey fans that also happen to be money challenged, we couldn’t resist! But it was really well done and a lot of it was stuff that my parents had taught me so we continue to go (and get free tickets, of course!)

  24. Thank you for a calm resonable response to this horrible story.

  25. Love the example, Lenore, I will be very careful to look for flying butterballs.
    I am so sorry for the Dugans. They will be pilloried and vilified, as if they did not have enough agony in their lives.

    Once more, the best defense is hyperbole and satire.
    Beware the ominous music.

  26. sorry, link is here

  27. great advice. thanks for sharing

  28. Michelle points out above that this guy was caught before and released (!) There is the lesson we need to take away here. Once a sex offender, always a sex offender (a real one, not a public urinator or a teenager engaged in consensual intercourse, as Lenore points out in the article). Narrow our definition of sex offense down to what it really is – rape – and then “protect” ourselves by never, ever giving them the chance to do it twice. The evidence to support this position is overwhelming.

    We cannot know who these people are until they hurt at least one person; we cannot protect ourselves from them without that knowledge; but to fail so egregiously to protect ourselves *after* we know, that is unforgivable. Busybodies create a situation where we have a list of almost 700,000 sex offenders in one state and still have similar rates of rape; busybodies create a situation where children are taken away from good, responsible parents and put in the hands of an abusive and insane government system, and busybodies create a system where rapists are allowed to walk the streets. No surprise that supporters of all three of those things are in the same political camp, but mind-boggling that anyone else allows them to dictate the terms by which we live.

    (sorry for all the rhetoric, just in a riled up state here)

  29. Of all children under age 5 murdered from 1976-2005 —

    31% were killed by fathers
    29% were killed by mothers
    23% were killed by male acquaintances
    7% were killed by other relatives
    3% were killed by strangers

    Moral: Never, ever allow your child INSIDE your home. Never allow your child near your family. I’m hoping to see an article with a few tips on how to keep your child safely sequestered from yourself. Safest bet: leave them with a stranger.

  30. Every time someone says something like “don’t ever go anywhere alone,” the single solitary answer you should give them is, “Do not ever get into a car, for the rest of your life.”

    What if they ignore that advice, and then wind up paralyzing their children, or killing them? Or paralyzing or killing someone else? How on earth could they live with themselves? — Auto deaths number in the tens of thousands each year, far outstripping the number of deaths and kidnappings that happen in situations like this.

    So. Let’s make it a chorus.

    If you think that the right thing to do
    in the face of such dangers is to
    never go out alone, BUT you
    continue to get in cars, then you

    Say it again and again. Maybe someone will get it.

  31. I just clicked over the article linked in Lenore’s post, the one that has the advice “never go anywhere alone”. It also has this delightful little quote:

    “It’s sad our children have to grow up in a world where they have to worry about people like Craig Garrido and Nancy Garrido”

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong, Jaycee was abducted 18 years ago. I was growing up 18 years ago (I was 6) so my kids are growing up in a world where they “have to worry about people” who abducted someone when I was 6. Well, why didn’t I “have to worry about people” then? ‘Coz I was certainly never told “not to go anywhere alone”!

  32. True story–on Thursday I had convinced a co-worker to let her 11-year-old daughter take the bus to junior high. Naturally, the first thing she said to me yesterday was, “SEE, I TOLD YOU IT HAPPENS!” She truly felt the fates had conspired to tell her she should NOT be putting her kid on the bus.

    I gently reminded her that I could get hit by a bus while crossing the street, but that wasn’t going to prevent me from ever leaving my yard again. I don’t think she got it. She firmly believes that, if I had only child as she does, I’d feel differently. *snort* I won’t say where the conversation went from there! LOL

  33. Lenore, this is an odd detail to mention in the middle of all the heartfelt sympathy…but I *love* the flying turkey analogy. (Having it come from someone whose name is practically Butterball adds a nice Dickensian coincidence to it all.) If you ever feel inspired to put down your “serious issue” pen and pick up your “satire” pen–we all know you have a wicked one!–you could write a wonderful response to the Great Butterball Tragedy, full of advice to all of us, but especially parents, on how to take reasonable safety measures to avoid this, and reminding us that “one frozen turkey death is one too many” and “if you wait until it happens, you’ve waited too long” and such.

    As KateNonymous said, it’s very sad that you don’t have the same audience that the fearmongers have. A humor piece like that might have a chance at publication in some wider venue.

  34. A bittersweet story indeed. As a previous post here stated, the justice system does suck. We are way too lenient on the truly violent and predatory folks that demonstrate a clear track record such as this awful human, Craig Garrido.

    As parents of elementary aged children, it is important (but difficult) to not get too obsessed with this stuff but at the same time try to fall back on simple common sense. We live in a very safe, close knit neighborhood. However, our neighborhood is bordered by an area that is somewhat run down and not as safe. Because of this, I am more aware of the limits I allow my children to take. I DO let them ride their bikes to the park (out of sight) from our house, I do let them play outside without me etc. but I am also keenly aware of the importance of giving them this freedom as well as what my responsibilities are too as a parent.

    Jaycee’s stepfather was doing everything right and then some. And this tragedy STILL happened. Heck, at age 11 how many parents are still watching their child at the bus stop? I can envision it now, parents everywhere will have their kids tethered to a leash (like those dreadful toddler/infant dog leashes for humans) at the bus stop.

    Look out below!!! The frozen turkeys might be falling.

    Thanks again Lenore for the sound comments you provide that we all desperately need to hear!

  35. I’ve been on vacation and without media and just saw this case on the front page of the NYT. First, while awful and heartbreaking, should this topic be on the front page?! Second, while I was reading the article, my free-range daughter said see ya, I’m going roller blading with my friend…and my heart definitely did a little flip. And third, I thought c**p, so much for the free-range movement. So it was incredibly comforting to have Lenore’s sensible comments as well as those of her readers. Thank you! My children are of an age where my husband and I can sit down with them and discuss the details (well, no need to dwell on everything) and discuss what they can/should do if this happened to them. Knowledge is power. (As an aside, I think telling children that they can be ANGRY in certain situations is incredibly empowering.)

    So thanks again everyone.

  36. […] usual, Lenore has a dose of reality to add to this. You really should read the entire essay (not to mention, her book!): Here’s one […]

  37. Wanted to respond to the comment from Tana suggesting the advice in the linked article isn’t worth paying attention to because the writer’s just an accountant.

    I had a different reaction when I reached the author’s bio – a good CPA has well-honed analytical skills and training in statistics/risk management, so to me it was disappointing to see this go to waste. Many of the her professional peers would’ve gone down the more logical path Lenore took and perhaps had some valuable insights to offer. But the article does demonstrate anyone can be irrational when it comes to protecting children and I guess that’s what this site is fighting against 🙂

  38. One thing we ought to be remembering is that Jaycee’s abduction happened in a time when the serious crime rate was a whole lot higher than it is now.

    Our natural response to incidents like this is to withdraw further from each other, view our neighbors as threats, etc. It’s also the response that will do the most to enable the Garridos of the world. What’s your natural, instinctive response when a car is heading at you? It’s to freeze. That’s because the primitive centers of your brain are trying to keep you from getting eaten by the car, and if the driver doesn’t notice you, he can’t pull a Hannibal Lecter on you. But it’s also the response that’s most likely to get you killed. These are both cases where we have to fight our instincts.

    I also suspect that one reason the Garridos got away with it for so long is that they didn’t fit social stereotypes of criminals. Guess what, most people who commit serious crimes don’t.

  39. I went to Glossop Derbyshire (UK) today and saw about a dozen kids playing unsupervised in a park on the BMX bike slopes. They were having a great time.

  40. Lenore, once again you’ve cut to the chase. Excellent.

    Parent, stranger, relative, friend…. there are horrible people everywhere. The worst are often hard to discover and, unfortunately, we don’t find out until after the fact. I’m reminded of the Austrian father who imprisoned his daughter.

    We can either retreat behind our “walls” – real & imagined – and live in fear or we can create strong safety nets and give our children the information and tools they will need in order to understand and determine when a dangerous situation arises. I prefer the latter.

    @ Lisa, thanks for the DVD suggestion

  41. I also suspect that one reason the Garridos got away with it for so long is that they didn’t fit social stereotypes of criminals. Guess what, most people who commit serious crimes don’t.

    What are you talking about? They *did* fit the stereotype of criminals, that’s all people are talking about!

    He’d already served part of his 40-year sentence for some sex-related crime already and was a parolee. He also served a brief sentence while this woman was being held captive. Neighbors called the cops on him thinking something was wrong several times. The kids on the block called him “creepy”. Nobody is saying “Gosh, he was so quiet, kept to himself, we never knew”, they’re going “Well, we kept SAYing something was wrong…!”

  42. Jaycee’s stepfather was doing everything right and then some. And this tragedy STILL happened. Heck, at age 11 how many parents are still watching their child at the bus stop? I can envision it now, parents everywhere will have their kids tethered to a leash (like those dreadful toddler/infant dog leashes for humans) at the bus stop.

    As somebody whose nieces WISH they had a leash (no, seriously, I’m constantly finding one tying up the other…!), I wish people would stop disparaging them.

    When your kid is quite young – toddler aged, which is what those leashes are for – you will sometimes go places where your child needs to be confined. A very crowded and unfamiliar place, a huge park with lots of places to get lost, the parking lot of a major store where the drivers are idiots? Use your best judgment, there WILL be a place where you figure your kid needs the extra supervision.

    In those cases you have a few choices. You can actively confine your kid by putting them in a stroller or wearing them. Well, strollers are a pain to navigate, and wearing (and I wear my younger niece in a sling at almost-four!) *does* eventually get uncomfortable with the older child, and anyway kids do need to walk around and move their bodies if you’re, say, going to be out for the whole day.

    So you can hold your child’s hand or put them on a leash. (Or teach them to not go too far and come when called, but, again, there’s times when actually that isn’t a great idea – my mother tells the story of the time I managed to dart out of the stalled car onto the highway, for example, or you may have a kid who’s a runner: blink and they’re gone. Toddler leashes are for kids young enough that it’s reasonable to expect that they don’t always listen.) Holding your kid’s hand accords them LESS freedom than a leash – they can only go as far as you’re willing to move your arm, basically trapping them to your side! Plus (and this sounds so silly to say here, but it’s actually true) it puts your kid at risk of nursemaid’s elbow or a dislocated shoulder, both things that are, bizarrely, much more common than most people realize. (They’re more common than abductions, that’s for sure!)

    More freedom while controlling movement in those rare situations where the kid *must* stay close? I’m all for it.

  43. Uly, I used to think the idea of leashes for toddlers was so inhumane. Until we went to Niagra Falls and I had two very small children. I decided to us a leash for my younger one and it completely saved our day. He felt like he could go anywhere he wanted so there were no meltdowns and I didn’t have to constantly worry that he was going to run off or get seperated by the crowds. I did, however, tie the leash to my belt and his so it didn’t seem so awful and it freed up my hands. I also used it for hiking. I would tie the kids to me when we climbed local waterfalls to keep them close on the slippery rocks.

  44. @Uly

    I agree about the leashes. Our family are keen hikers and we take the kids with us. Obviously we want them to walk as much as possible, they’re heavy to carry and we want them to enjoy the hike not just be stuck in a backpack! But as we’re often on paths that are close to steep drops or fast flowing rivers we use a “leash” with our 4 year old. We don’t use it anywhere else other than hiking anymore but when she was 1 and 2 we used it at the big street festival our city hosts each year.

    The one we use is a little kid sized rucksack with a clip for the leash on the top of the rucksack so she feels like she’s wearing a “real hiking bag” and the leash allows her to go far enough ahead to walk on narrow paths where hand holding is impractical and still be as safe as we can make her from falling down a cliff (she can still fall and scrape knees etc. which we think is good for teaching her to have more careful footing, especially going down steep hills).

    I think the key point though is that she’s not on a leash all day every day (which sounds the same for your niece) which I think was the point the previous commentor was making.

  45. comes down to. the kid was taken in front of other people, while the Dad watched but could not get there fast enough to do anything about. THE PARENT WAS THERE! worst thing in the world to think about but no amount of over protection of a child would have stopped this from happening. Teach your kids to fight back and fight hard and keep on free ranging.

  46. Uly: I was thinking about the kinds of stereotypes associated with the number of photons bouncing off a person. Something similar happened with the Columbine incident; Harris and Klebold had records, and had other kids making credible complaints of threats, but they were white and middle-class (note that they were planning a massacre, originally intended as a bombing, for a whole year).

  47. The San Jose Mercury News published a letter today supporting this exact position and recommending your book:

    The letter says:

    or a lot of parents, the joy of learning that Jaycee Dugard is alive and reunited with her family (Page 1A, Aug. 28) is tempered by thoughts of, “What if that was MY daughter?” Reading about her ordeal, it seems smart to keep our kids closer to us and therefore farther from the hands of anyone who might take them. We forget that kidnappings are incredibly rare, so we deprive our kids of opportunities to learn about moving confidently and independently in the world. It’s ironic that we’d rather lock up our kids than take the 1 in 1.5 million chance that someone else might.

    A better course of action is to teach our kids to go only with people they know, yell and draw attention to themselves if someone tries to force them to go someplace, and also to run away fast. Lenore Skenazy’s book “Free-Range Kids” offers some great tips and reassurance for those of us who have a hard time letting go.

  48. One thing my dad (a sheriiff’s deputy) always taught me was to fight to get away no matter what if someone approached me. Obviously not when I was 4 or 5 years old, but as I got older, I remember having this conversation with him, and as I continued to get older, it included more details — that most people don’t die from gunshots fired they’re running away from someone, all designed to give me the courage to do whatever it took not to be taken from the first location in the first place.

    I honestly don’t worry so much about my little one’s getting abducted, but I do thing there is an age where the danger of being raped or assaulted (for teenage girls) increases. I plan to make sure my girls know the FIGHT to FLIGHT strategy as they get older as well.

  49. Kids differ a lot. Oldest one was a runner, he would bolt at the drop of a hat. We camped a lot (still do), and he would also chafe at being held like the children mentioned above. I made a leash for him LOONG before they ever hit the shelves. After all, a pet on a leash had the freedom to sniff or look, but if he got in trouble you could reel him in.(I had a cat that walked on one) So son’s leash was a long clothesline with a scavenged dog leash hook on it, clipped to the back of son’s overalls. (maybe first inventor saw us in the campground. ) It saved his life more than once, as he was able to get very close to ‘bad things’ but did not have a hysterical mom screaming NO! (I still did plenty of that, too) I considered it more of a safety (and sanity) line than a leash.
    Then when complete-opposite-youngest was 2 he decided he was afraid of dirt (go figure – I am so ashamed!) . If I held his hand he was climbing all over me (NOT in a happy way). But if he was on the safety line he would at least stay on a blanket or (go figure) stand on a sheet of newspaper. After about a year he decided that dirt was cool and he has been fine since. But would he have been okay if I had told him about the dangers of raccoon poop? Or if I had obsessed about microbes and nasties in the dirt? If I had fed his fears and thereby make them real? Nope, I think he would still be carrying a newspaper everywhere to walk on.
    And I want to thank all of you that have made comments on this blog and provided sanity to these days. I use the “Getting hit by a bus” analogy nearly daily and will now use the “For God Sakes, you actually allow your child in a car?” as a backup. I feel so much more prepared to counter the hysteria, get a zinger or two in, and get some kids outdoors.
    Thank you, Lenore, and everyone else (except those who just don’t get it – for you I say “please listen and learn and come over to the dark side! Let your children go!” )

    By the way, the 20/20 bit on a helicopter mom last night was nauseating. Her kids are cripples and she is mental and I hope those boys never marry. She needs to get her own life. (search ABC news)

    And please, Lenore, get the wicked satire pen out and have at it!!!

  50. Amen Mandi. There was a case of a serial murderer of young hispanic girls (which may be why this didn’t get more play). The way the man was caught was one little girl, when the murderer stopped to get hefty bags, somehow got out of the car, and jumped through the open window of a semi truck. The trucker saw the guy come running to the truck, saying he was her father blah blah blah – trucker rolled up the window and called the cops. The very usable lesson: heaven forbid this happen to you but KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. DO NOT PANIC. LOOK FOR YOUR CHANCE TO ESCAPE. And I do tell my kids this story. (as well as telling them, as does one of the other commenters) that we don’t have secrets in our house, we have surprises, and if someone threatens their family – that’s the time to start telling everyone who will listen.

  51. If you watch that 20/20 piece like I just did, please do not think that all home school parents are like that. We’re not.

  52. […] Are There Really Lessons to Learn From The Jaycee Abduction? First off, my heart goes out to Jaycee Dugard, her daughters, her parents, step-parents – everyone in her […] […]

  53. I think the key point though is that she’s not on a leash all day every day (which sounds the same for your niece) which I think was the point the previous commentor was making.

    I don’t think the previous commenter was thinking about making a point other than “leashes = treating your kid like a dog”, which is about as far as a lot of people think on the issue. And indeed, if you think that leashes are demeaning for a two year old, I don’t see much that will convince you until you decide to use one yourself. *shrugs* But I know many perfectly sane and loving parents who do use tethers on their smaller children for perfectly reasonable and sane reasons, and I’m never adverse to speaking my mind, so….

    My nieces never actually have had a leash at all! They’re both good at stopping when told to stop (even the younger one, we’re blessed with that), and so I let them run quite a way ahead of me (for the US, anyway) before calling them back, that sort of thing. They just wish they had a leash so they could better pretend to be dogs. (I actually once caught the older one taking her sister out to the backyard so she could pretend to “do her business”. That’s where I put the end to this – even just pretending, I couldn’t imagine how this would be explained to their parents!)

  54. Thank you for reading my letter to the editor, wahoofive. 🙂 Looking at the crazy front page the past two days makes me hope that a lot more people are thinking similarly.

    I’ve had two friends practically self-destruct in the past few months because young children were not where they were expected to be. In both cases, it was because they were imagining a stranger abduction instead of more likely scenarios. Such a horrible ordeal to be put through just because we don’t “do” risk assessment as a society very well.

  55. I pray for Jaycee and her two daughters to be able to adjust to their new lives and for Jaycee’s mom, stepfather, sister etc. to be able to reconnect again & heal together. May this story spark more thorough policework to help find other missing children that might be out there.

  56. There’s so much to be said for common sense! No, I don’t let my 4 year-old go out into the neighborhood by herself. But she’s allowed in the backyard on her own sometimes. I didn’t let my 18 month old stay out there alone, as we have no fence to keep her from wandering off into the street, or falling over the 5-drop into the neighbor’s yard. When the girls are older, they’ll be able to go out into the neighborhood on their bikes, or walk to a friend’s house on their own. And hopefully one day they’ll know how to cross streets safely, drive cars responsibly and *how to walk in a supermarket parking lot*…a lesson many adults have yet to learn!

  57. Regarding leashes on children: Some kids will come when called, others seem to have “selective hearing”–they can’t hear a parent calling at rock-band sound levels, but they can hear the ice-cream truck three blocks away. There’s also the theory that some people are “eye-minded”–what they see absorbs their attention. Others are “ear-minded”–sounds get their attention. Ever notice how some TV commercials combine “text” with “voiceover”? I suspect those kids who go chasing off and ignore the parent’s calling are probably the sort who respond to sights, with any input to the ears being attenuated. Thus physical restraint may be advisable in crowded or hazardous locations. Note to readers who look askance at leashes for non-canine family members: This is another “Don’t criticize until you’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoes” situation.

  58. Another lesson from this horrible incident: The police will ignore a report called in about an abducted girl being held captive, but will happily taser grandmothers, pregnant women and retarded children; shoot dogs in front of their owners; tell people they can’t carry signs at political demonstrations; and lock people in cages like animals for the so-called “crime” of putting unauthorized substances into their own bodies.

  59. I don’t know if anyone mentioned this yet since I don’t have the time to read all the comments, but an article I read mentioned that people who lived near the abductors property would hear children playing and saw people living in tents. People actually saw them there over the years, but it never clued in.

    I hope Jaycee can get her life back together. I can’t imagine what those two children are going through, living whole lives in a tent and their father being a kidnapping rapist…that’s a whole lotta f*cked up right there.

    Speaking of kidnappings and holding caprives for decades…..whatever happened to the Austrian man who held his own daughter captive and fathered his own grandkids?

  60. Given that most abductees seem to be blond girls (proof by example: Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee), obviously if you have a blonde daughter you should dye her hair. Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to protect her?

  61. Teach your kids to yell and scream stranger if someone they don’t know tries to make them go somewhere. It was part of a very practical safety program that included basic first aid, how to walk/ride your bike to school safely unit that was taught in my elementary school. It saved a neighbor child, when I was growing up, because 2 older women listened when she yelled he’s not my Dad.

    Also if you are dragging a screaming child from a store – don’t go off on the stranger that looks at your child screaming No no no no -and asks Who is that while pointing at you. I’ve done that. I’ve asked the kid who was being chased around a car in a parking lot who the adults were, and if the 5 year old screaming help while being dragged by his leg down the edge of a yard by an 11 yo if he really needed help or if he was playing. Each time the kid stopped and the parents thanked me. I’ve been warned I am being very rude and shouldn’t do this – but the fate of my classmate hung on those two ladies and I won’t let some other child down.

    Now if the child is addressing the adult by name I just give them space.

  62. If you dared to let your children do something so simple as walk to school in numbers…even with a plan in place, here in the state I live in, you are considered dismissive of your child’s welfare. If you let your children again in numbers go out and explore the world around your own neighborhood, you are still classed as a parent who is putting their child/ren at risk. I am not talking about not knowing where your children are, or not giving a dam what they are doing, I am talking about letting your kids be kids and not sitting on their backsides in front of a tv screen or computer games. Queensland , Australia is akin to living in a Nazi state and you dare to question the way they have created the legislation to protect children who are at risk, then you also will be dragged into a system that allows parents to be basically punished for allowing their kids to explore their childhood and be what all kids have a right to be, simply kids. In this state your children are to be attached to the umbilical cord until they leave home. Stranger danger is taught, and all the common issues us parents face are addressed BUT unless you follow the textbook ideas of the state, you will soon find out how much the state takes away the rights and responsibilities of the parents or care givers and steps in , all in the name of so called good intentions. Obviously there are parents and care givers who need to be reminded of their responsibilities to children.

  63. Wow, that whole article is a train wreck. Poorly (if at all) researched, no focus, silly fear mongering conclusions, and it’s not even interesting to read. Is she getting paid to write that? If so good on her for that scam.

    Never go anywhere alone? How sad and depressing is that?

  64. it is best to keep kids with parents at all times these days, if possible. there is too much crime against children happening these days, and the only thing that can help kids defend themselves is to arm them, and since that won’t happen, just keep them in sight at all times.

  65. I’m terribly dismayed about that article by author (Meg C) in Associated Content, that Lenore sites above. I encourage everyone who follows Lenore to post comments on Meg C’s article (along with a related one–also complete drivel and horrendously written– about Jaycee’s photo now.) She doesn’t deserve a platform for her uninformed views, but being that she does have one, we need to at least let her know how offensive her writing is.

  66. just occurs to me that writers for Associated Content’s pay is directly linked to the traffic they generate. Since we disagree with the advice this writer is giving, should we be giving the writer more traffic and validation by linking to the article?

  67. About 15 years ago, one of my best friends and her husband took their 11month old baby to the local mall to buy her some shoes. The baby was in the stroller not strapped in. As my friends looked away for maybe 10 seconds (the stroller was right next to them) the baby was snatched away. Both of them ran frantically calling security and the store was shut down immediately. They found the baby’s blouse here, the pants over there, etc. until they finally located the baby on the other side of the store wearing only her diaper. The person who took her was never located because the store opened right after the baby was found.

    They are incredibly cautious parents with this only child that they hover over constantly.

    Moral: Crappy stuff happens to the best of parents/kids.

  68. @Michelle I have to disagree with the “Parole officers suck”. While I believe that there are as many slackers as in any other job, they are simply overworked. If they were actually to really check his property, that’d eat man-hours – paid by tax paying citizen. The same citizens that have blocked any effective tax reforms to increase tax revenue in california for decades, making it necessary to put state employees on unpaid leave.

    I know this sounds harsh, but I really don’t expect a parole officer to work on his free time. Even checking in somewhere on his way to work probably means that his not insured.

    Lenore identified the problem: The problem’s not simply “more money” but “less work”. All those stupid “sex offenders laws” that punish 16 year olds for sleeping with 15 year olds or puts 19 year olds in prison for sleeping with 17 year olds are actually *harmful*. Because even if they don’t end up in jail or in front of a parole officer every 2nd week, they eat up resources like hell, make databases unwieldly, while people like Jaycee’s abductor slip though.

  69. it is best to keep kids with parents at all times these days, if possible

    Before we continue with this conversation I want a 1000 word (minimum) essay on the cons of keeping your kid with you at all times. Because it would be too easy, you are not to mention the lack of affordable childcare nor wages lost due to being your kid’s warden.

    there is too much crime against children happening these days

    Cite statistics and show your sources. Be sure to contrast the crime rate *now* with the crime rate 10, 20, and 50 years ago; also please research and list the most likely people to commit crimes against children (ie, their parents).

    and the only thing that can help kids defend themselves is to arm them, and since that won’t happen, just keep them in sight at all times.

    After you’re done with your last two essays, please write a third essay detailing the pros and cons of arming a child with a sharp, blunt, or projectile weapon. Be sure to interview at least one person who does so. Also, please compare and contrast “arming a child” with other methods of child protection such as taking a self-defense class, encouraging your child to travel with friends, giving your child a cell phone, and prayer.

  70. What haunts me about this story (Jaycee’s abduction and years away from home) is seeing that the abduction happened when I was pregnant with my eldest and that she then went on to have her first child at about 14y of age. For some reason the timing made me feel everything deeper, especially envisioning her pregnant at 13. I think the zoo that this story has become has potentially devastating effects for both Jaycee and her daughters. I am praying for them and for Jaycee and the whole family. I just can’t imagine the pain. Period. The mom taking time off every year at Christmas and the abduction time to stay home and cry ~ it breaks my heart, especially knowing her daughter was only 200 miles away the whole time. The step father being a *suspect* until the day Jaycee was found, I just have no words for that either.

    I wish the media would cut it out. I understand how magnetizing this story is. I found the details riveting and had a sharp ear and eye out for updates with more details. But the reality is, this is *not* a tv show to be garnering ratings. It is the real lives of some very real people. I pray all those girls have the strength to heal and move on, but my question is, will the media and American public allow them to? Will they always be “those people”? How will the girls be treated in school (as I’m assuming they will be swiftly sent there)? How will they feel as the truth of their father comes out in such a public way and they find they cannot escape the questioning busybodies and curious eyes?

    I know none of that is what this blog is really about today, but I just have to say this is the problem I have with the media in general. Rather than realizing these are *real* human beings who need some space and healing and support, the media is making them into poster children. And for what? To rob every child of any semblance of childhood because something horrifying happened to this one? i wonder how Jaycee feels about this.

    My energy is going into prayers for the family. I quit reading all the fear mongering stuff the instant it came out. That is *not* a proper tribute to a girl who has suffered enough already. Jaycee will have to formulate her own reaction to what happened and find a way to live her life outside those compound walls and to reconcile what happened to her all those years. Can’t the media and American public give her some time to recover from the changes in her life before assigning her the role of poster child?

    Lenore … I hope people listen well enough to hear sensible voices like yours over the roar of the circus. I do think there are lessons to be learned from Jaycee’s abduction. There are some really sick people out there who will go to great lengths to accomplish awful things. But when I hear a story like Jaycee’s, it doesn’t make me afraid of those people ~ instead it makes me treasure *every single moment* I have with each of my children. There are *no* guarantees in life. So we try to live life to the fullest; whenever possible doing great things; stopping to memorize moments; and loving our kids deeply always even when they drive us crazy. Not because some mad man might snatch them, but because life is precious and we don’t know what is around the corner (be it a health issue, a car accident, death, etc). What a far better way to honor Jaycee’s complicated life than to be jumping at every shadow and invoking her name to prove basis for fear.

  71. @KW, your comment – especially your last paragraph – was so beautiful and well-spoken. Thank you so much.

  72. More hysteria: in the Washington Post.

  73. Jaycee’s father was right there. He followed on his bike. What else could he have done? This is before cell phones (with or without cameras) or digital cameras. I’m glad he chased the car instead of freaking out.

    Yeah, stranger abductions happen. Before I was born or imagined, my mother was shopping with my older sister Amy (not really her name), who was about two or three. Old enough that she wanted to walk, smart enough to stay with mom.
    Well, Mom was finished in that section, took her hand, and said “Ok, Amy, we’re just about done!”
    A man (who my mother did not know or recognize) grabbed my sister around the waist and said “Hi, Amy, I’ll help you find your mommy!”
    Mom reacted fast — she punched him in the face, grabbed my sister, and ran to whatever security or customer service desk was nearest.

    The thing is…Stranger abductions are RARE. Extremely. But stories like Jaycee, Elisabeth Smart, or my sister scare people enough (and, in the first two situations, are publicized enough) that the general public freaks out.

    Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or anyone else who interacts with kids…I’d recommend reading at least “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker, and (his book about keeping kids safe while helping them to explore their freedom) “Protecting the Gift”. DeBecker is/was a criminal profiler and consultant for various police forces, FBI, and/or CIA. Some of the stories are pretty chilling, but the information (how to gauge whether someone is safe or not, how to avoid dangerous situations while still taking reasonable risks, and how to contact authorities when needed) is extremely useful for everyone.

  74. Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.

    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

  75. @Lisa – we just got and watched the safe side DVD. I’ll have to post a fuller review of it, but we found it kind of odd.

    The woman is pretty crazy, and I think a little over the top so much as to take away from the seriousness of the content being discussed.

    She puts herself in the “kinda know” category, which seems odd, since we don’t know her at all.

    She says that you shouldn’t allow a “don’t know” within ten steps of you, thus I guess the other swing can’t be used by anyone else. Their example scenario was much better, where the girl didn’t seem concerned until the man touched her on the arm.

    She also says “don’t talk to anyone you don’t know”, and applauds children who when talked to in a park say, “this is weird, I’m getting out of here.” Granted, I don’t want my kids going off to help someone find an adult’s lost cat, but it seems perfectly reasonable for an adult to ask my kids, “Have you seen my _____? It was around here somewhere.” And if someone does ask them to help find something – I think the better response is – I can probably can help you, but let me go ask my dad, and then maybe he can help too, rather than screaming and running away.

    But, as you said, we did stop it a number of times and talk about things. My five year old thought it was a bad idea to get into someone’s car, but my three year old thought that if someone offered you SUGAR! it would be great to get into the car to get it. And of course, he would drive you home afterwards.

  76. When I heard about this yesterday, I thought, “I wonder what Lenore will say.” This is just what I predicted. I only wish you had a forum as prominent as the Nancy Graces and Jane Velez-Mitchells of the world.

  77. Собственно сабж
    Истории есть?

  78. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful information specially the last part I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  79. You need a ‘flag’ button for the spam comments Lenore!

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