There comes a time in every child’s life, that they come across a user. No, I’m not talking about someone on “the drugs,” or a junkie of some kind, but rather a person who takes advantage of the kindness of precious little Timmy. The User exudes faux friendship, saying things like “heeeey, you wanna play” all the while trying to hide the deep dark secret that he just wants to play with Timmy’s wonder magical toy 5000. So what is little Timmy to do? Should he just ignore The User, and risk becoming a social outcast? Or should he play along, after all, it can’t be that bad. Perhaps the User is just in need of a friend. This situation is one in which the proverbial parenting “rubber” meets the “road.”
For the sake of argument, let’s say Timmy’s parents have failed him miserably. He has very low emotional IQ, and no discernment skills whatsoever. Timmy invites The User in, and in the blink of an eye, The User shifts focus away from Timmy. The User is no longer concerned with Timmy and his friendship, but instead he is concerned on how he can leverage his knowledge of Timmy to achieve some kind of personal gain. Before long Timmy is either 1) sitting in the corner crying, or 2) looking like an outsider in his own domain... neither option is good.
Now let’s say Timmy’s parents are the bees knees. They have instilled Timmy with confidence, an understanding of his emotions, and the ability to say no. Timmy recognizes the deep desire that The User has to be loved, but knows the dangers of being used. Timmy begins to play with The User, but has no problem figuring out when The User starts being manipulative. When this transition happens, Timmy proclaims that he enjoys The User’s presence, but if the manipulative behavior continues, they will have to part ways for a little while. This is done guilt free because deep down Timmy knows, he’s only guarding his own emotions. Well done Timmy!
As my children age, it’s becoming more and more clear that hiding them from all the world’s troubles and depravity is a fruitless effort. There are those who are waiting and willing to use them. It sounds very cliche, but it’s apparent that one of the biggest jobs a parent has is to help their kids help themselves.