Editor’s Note: A recent article published on the PSC website described a foreign protection assignment that included caring for the child of a protectee who was attending a public event that the child could not attend. That sparked a memory of an article we published in a 1996 edition of Tactical Response & Security magazine, with the same title “Baby Wrangling: When Your Principal Is A Child” by Jeff Marquart.
Jeff was 27 years old and fairly new to the protection profession when he wrote that article. Since then he has become a highly regarded and accomplished expert in this field. He is a co-author of Just 2 Seconds: Using Time and Space to Defeat Assassins. Today he is Senior Director, Executive Protection, at Crisis24, a GardaWorld Company.
I asked Jeff if he would agree to publish the article again and if there was anything in the original that he would change or update. We made only minor technical edits. Mostly it was his and my desire to make it gender neutral out of respect for and acknowledgement of the increasing number of women in the profession.
This article is a good example of how some tried and true methods and solutions have remained the same through the ages. If you doubt that some ways of doing things are timeless, ask any parent of a toddler if there is any credence to the adage, “The Terrible Twos.”
Little League, Barbie, and the Senior Prom may be on the itinerary for the Executive Protection Specialist tasked with guarding a child
Baby Wrangling: When Your Principal Is A Child
by Jeff Marquart
Almost every career executive protection agent will at some point be faced with the task of protecting a principal’s child or a child as a primary principal. Obviously, children as principals will present different risks and protective environments than adults. However, until recently I didn’t realize just how different these risks and environments could be.
I was fortunate enough to spend almost half a year with a foreign dignitary and her seven children, ranging in age from 18 months to 16 years. You might imagine the adventures on which I was taken. Toward the end of this detail, a fellow agent and I were discussing all the “firsts” we had experienced, and I decided to commit some of these thoughts to paper.
The following problems, situations, and suggestions specific to child principals are based on my personal experiences and the experiences of other agents with whom I have discussed these situations.
Medical emergencies are a major concern with regard to any principal. However, children offer very different and, I would venture to say, more potential medical risks and emergency situations than do average adults. Common sense will tell you that theme parks and zoos offer different security concerns than do board meetings and business trips but dealing with these concerns on a practical and daily basis is not so simple.
It is important for agents to arm themselves with as much “child specific” medical care knowledge as possible. Child CPR is taught through the Red Cross and is always a valuable asset for a protective agent – or anyone else. Also, having personally completed a three-week stay at a lake resort with daily boating, jet-skiing, and swimming, I recommend a life-guard course and preferably a Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certification as well. In addition to these formal programs, there are also many books on the subject of child care which would be very beneficial to any agent. Knowledge truly is power, especially in a medical crisis.
There are many differences in preparing for young principals, but there are also many constants. Always acquire medical history reports on all members of the family when taking on a client, even if you do not expect to be involved with the children. Things change very quickly, and if you are called upon to protect a child, this is one item you will already have out of the way. Medical reports should include doctor’s numbers, prescription drugs, allergies, past medical problems, etc. These standard medical precautions should be taken in addition to child specific concerns.
Of course, the ideal in medical emergency preparation is the avoidance of accidents through awareness. An agent must remember that situations adults often give little thought to can be extremely dangerous to children. For example, it is difficult for adults to imagine a penny presenting a potential medical crisis. However, in the hands of a young child, the possibility of the penny being swallowed is very realistic.
Agents who are also parents may find this type of awareness as “second nature” and “common sense,” but agents less experienced with children need to be conscious of these hidden dangers.
It is also important to stress awareness to others such as parents, nannies, and older siblings. Do not fear that tactfully pointing out dangers to parents will offend them. Most parents will appreciate your concerns and consider them an act of professionalism rather than an infringement on their parental duties.
Entertaining A Young Principal
When working with a young principal, an agent will usually be asked to entertain the child or accompany them to their usual activities or events. These events can range from arcades, to Little League games, to camping trips, with the sky being the limit. Some agents feel that asked to do such things is crossing the line and not within the job description of a protective agent. I disagree! A child should be free to conduct their normal activities just as an executive, dignitary, or entertainer is free to pursue their daily activities.
However, before accepting a detail with a child, an agent should carefully, realistically, and honestly consider his or her suitability and tolerance for these situations. A protector will maintain much more respect and credibility with a client by being honest up front and declining the job – citing inexperience with children – rather than unwillingly accepting and performing with mediocrity.
Every parent will ask an agent to entertain in different ways which will vary in detail and clarity. It is vital to schedule a conference with at least one, and preferably both, parents prior to working with the child to establish clear rules and expectations regarding the child’s activities.
Ask very specific questions to alleviate doubt and indecision in the future. Bedtimes, TV rules, curfews, visitors, and budgets are all subjects that should be addressed. Neither the agents nor the parent will appreciate frequent, unnecessary communications and questions which could have been avoided through a thorough initial conference.
It is also important to discuss with the child, prior to any involvement, the rules that the parents have established. Make it very clear that these rules will not be broken or bent. Children are more intelligent and manipulative than we often admit. When a child sees that their protector will give an inch, he or she will certainly push the agent on every matter thereafter.
Last, but certainly not least, remember why an agent was employed or assigned to begin with. Although young principals should be allowed to enjoy themselves, they are children, and to them, safety is usually a very low priority. It is important to know when their normal activities such as jet-skiing becomes “bumper” jet-skiing and a serious risk to their safety. Obviously, a firm stance must be taken when this occurs, as any resulting injury will likely be attributed to the shortcomings of the child’s “protective” agent.
Emotional And Psychological Aspects
Children are different emotionally and psychologically than adults – although perhaps not as different as we like to think. Children generally have not learned the important difference between professional relationships and friendships. Many of these children have all the financial luxuries available but might be starving for attention. Youngsters will often view an agent as the new pal that mom and dad “bought” them. A professional must explain, in terms the child can understand, the reasons the relationship was initiated.
It is certainly alright to enjoy the time and activities that are shared, but it is important to remember that an agent is not paid to be a friend. If a child is to respect and cooperate with his agent in a crisis, the child must view the agent as a professional resource rather than a buddy.
It is even more important to maintain professionalism in the eyes of the parents. While they will appreciate tolerance and compatibility, they will also recognize – and probably terminate – highly paid baby-sitters.
Traveling With Children
Traveling with children, apart from their parents, can become quite a task. Parents often give very general instructions such as, “Jenny will be flying to California Friday to visit relatives and you will accompany her.” When this occurs, the protector should discuss several issues with the parents immediately.
Agents should be very specific in questions regarding their expected role in making arrangements for flights, transfers, hotels, automobiles, etc. Ideally the agent will be given the authority to personally arrange for these travel details, allowing the agent to maintain control and make specific requests based on a security perspective.
Sometimes parents feel a parental obligation to arrange their child’s trip personally. An agent can politely suggest that he handle the child’s arrangements as well, citing the parents’ busy schedules and valuable time. If the parents refuse and insist on making the arrangements themselves, the agent must carefully analyze the feasibility and risk associated with the parents’ planning.
If the agent’s assessment reveals a security risk, she or he should not hesitate to diplomatically mention the concerns and ask permission to make the necessary changes. The parents may or may not allow these changes, but at least the agent has attempted to do the job well. If the perceived risk is very serious, and the parents refuse to allow any change, the agent must make a tough decision. While refusing a job on this basis might result in the loss of a client, it will do much less damage to a professional career than an agent’s association with an ill-advised decision that results in a catastrophic incident involving a young principal under their care.
Another major concern when traveling is money. It is essential to pre-arrange payment instructions for flights, hotels, automobiles, etc. Budgets and methods of payment for the child should be discussed. How much are they allowed to spend? For what can they spend it? Are there restrictions on what they can buy? If during a trip a child spends their disposable cash, avoid using personal funds for non-essentials without the parents’ specific instructions.
Packing should also be considered. Be certain that the child, or whoever packs for the child, remembers planned special events, climate, gifts for hosts, recreational equipment, etc.
Medical preparations also change when traveling with children. Children’s general lack of awareness and knowledge of safety precautions coupled with the inherent dangers of traveling increase the possibility of a medical emergency. As always, the agent must have the child’s medical profile with them on all trips.
Any special care or prescription drugs should be arranged for in advance. The agent should ask the parents specific questions regarding preferred physicians or medical facilities in the area to be visited.
Also, parents should specify who is authorized to make medical decisions on the minor’s behalf if they cannot be reached. Of course, it is essential to determine the areas’ medical facilities and routes thereto prior to arrival – or at least immediately upon arrival.
When a detail involves youngsters on a long-term basis, it is beneficial to implement programs that help them become more security conscious and confident in their ability abilities to protect themselves when the agent is no longer around. Of course, the program should be explained to the parents and their permission should be granted before beginning a program of any kind.
Basic self-defense techniques as well as security awareness can be taught to children of almost any age. Children should be instructed on specific precautions which should include an explanation of their importance.
In my experience, children do not seem to apply generalizations well. However, they have a remarkable ability to remember and apply specific instruction. For example, if a child is heard saying to someone in public, “My daddy is on TV,” do not only instruct the child not to chat with people they don’t know well, but specifically instruct them not to discuss their parents status or position with anyone – and explain why. Remember, the world is a training ground. Whenever an agent observes a dangerous situation, point it out, explain it to the child, and encourage the child to recognize this situation in the future.
Health and fitness programs are also very beneficial to children for various reasons. Improved fitness and diet can improve the child’s performance in school, their confidence, their ability to socialize, their ability to overcome medical problems, and their ability to think sharply and protect themselves if necessary. There are books available specific to child health and fitness which would be very beneficial reading.
I admit that I have only begun to address the many difficulties a protective agent will face when protecting a child, and that I have probably introduced or induced more questions than answers. However, this was of my intention – to initiate forethought. I therefore encourage every protective agent to do what I have done and will continue to do – seek the answers to these questions and educate yourself to the fullest before blindly taking a young life into your hands.
Jeff Marquart Senior Director, Executive Protection, Crisis24, a GardaWorld Company.
Jeff is a recognized subject-matter expert in the executive security field. He has designed and managed countless complex protective security operations, in a broad range of circumstances, spanning more than 45 countries. For more than 25 years, Jeff has personally designed security strategies and supervised high-level protective operations for many of the world’s most influential people and enterprises. During this time, Jeff has also managed client risk in a multitude of environments, including private estates, domestic and international travel, scheduled and unscheduled public appearances, special events and meetings, and Federal Court trials. Jeff continues to advise Fortune 500 corporations, prominent families, government agencies, universities, and public figures. Prior to joining Crisis24, Jeff was a Partner at Gavin de Becker and Associates. Jeff is co-author of Just 2 Seconds: Using Time and Space to Defeat Assassins. The book is based upon the study of more than 1,400 attacks and incidents involving public figures. He has contributed his subject matter expertise to Forbes magazine, Parade magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and others. Jeff is a sought-after presenter and thought leader, and he is a member of the American Society of Industrial Security and the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals.
Cover photo courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net