Have You Forgotten the Most Important Safety Rule?

What are your safety rules? Wear helmets, don’t stick your finger in an outlet, buckle up, look both ways before crossing the street, . . . things like that? How about body safety rules?

If you only read one parenting book this summer, read Off Limits, A Parents Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D. and Feather Berkower, M.S.W. and you’ll realize that you, like me, missed the most important rules of allbody safety rules.

Body Safety Rules

Body Safety Rules I met Berkower at a neighbor’s house six years ago. She gave an all day “Parenting Safe Children” workshop for a group of couples. Honestly, I dreaded the workshop. I mean, what is more scary and awful than talking about sex, rape, abuse, and incest? (Nothing I can think of.)

But, the amazing thing was how much the class helped me NOT to be scared. Berkower’s goal, which is the same in her book, is that parents know enough to make their children safe from predators.

Why? Because one in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused by age 18. And if you think that’s frightening, consider this –those are just the cases that are reported!

Berkower asked my parent friends and me to brainstorm our safety rules, like I asked you earlier. So, we wrote an extensive list.

She stared at us, silent.

“Why don’t you have any rules about body safety?” she asked with intensity.

Um. Huh?

Berkower was and is adament. Parents must teach Body-Safety Rules throughout a child’s life. Weekly, daily. Not just once. Rules such as:

  • No one is allowed to touch your private parts.
  • If someone tries to touch your private parts, say NO!
  • and more.

And she gives parents Off-Limits Rules, too such as:

  • You have a right to choose how you demonstrate affection. (in other words, no mandatory hugs or kisses.)
  • You are the boss of your body. “Children who understand that their bodies belong to them and that no one else has the right to touch or look at their private parts are children who will be less vulnerable to sexual abuse.”
  • and more.

Another point that Berkower makes and differs from others is this — (and I agree from personal experience) is this: Don’t wait for your child to start the conversation. “Your child may never ask, but he or she still needs to know. It’s a parent’s resonsibiltiy to introduce the topic, little by little, and to do it frequently,” Berkower writes in the Off Limits book.

I bought this book and read it quickly – it’s a well-written and easy to read. More importantly, it’s full of essential parenting information to keep your child safe from predators. I don’t want to give away one copy. I want you all to own it for yourselves. Go to Parenting Safe Children and buy Off Limits.


  1. says

    As our kids grow and become more independent in the world having such rules and conversations becomes critical. I’m so glad to hear that instead of raising your fears, the knowledge in this book helped you to calm them.

    Thank you for reminding me to have some conversations with my kids. NOW. (well, when they get home from school, anyway).

  2. says

    Think it is so important to keep having these conversations over and over again in small bytes. Thanks for sharing this resource.

  3. Laura says

    My co-workers scoff at me when I told them I was having the drug talk with my 3 yr. old. Your post is a great reminder that there are other concerns as well. I definitely need to get this book.

  4. says

    Your post is so helpful because I was like you, don’t really want to delve into this topic at a workshop. Thank you for such good reminder on keeping our kids safe! I will be sure to have that conversation with my kids again!

  5. says

    I just had a conversation with my girls about this yesterday! Such an awkward topic (and that’s how I started my “talk”), but so necessary. I feel like this has been brought to my attention by so many people lately and I am glad, because I needed to take action.

    Thanks for sharing Melissa!

    • says

      I think we are more uncomfortable then them! Maybe I got over some of it when I had to teach puberty in 5th grade. There’s nothing quite like explaining “nocturnal emissions” and labeling the private parts on an overhead projector. Lots of discipline required not to giggle or blush.

  6. says

    I just “stumbled” by from the hop, which is found on a page on my site that lists more than 200 hops, memes, and photo challenges… some for each day of the week. Check under the header for the link to that page. I’ve also just started a BlogFrog community that focuses on hops, carnivals, memes, and photo challenges. Go to http://theblogfrog.com/1504201 to visit & participate.
    I hope you’ll visit me soon and follow back!

  7. Cynthia says

    This is such a powerful reminder –seems so simple and yet is to this day still so courageous to teach our children reverence for themselves and others. The numbers are astounding. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing

  8. says

    Thanks so much for your excellent feedback on Off Limits, glad you found the material so helpful. I have written other books for parents on this topic, and they are available on my website, http://www.sandywurtele.com. Parents play a hugely important role in keeping children safe from sexual exploitation–keep up the great work! Sandy


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