Spotting and Repelling Adult Predators
- Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Here’s how they earn our trust. (Gavin DeBecker broadly calls these “Survival Signals.”)
Forced Teaming: A predator uses the word we when we isn’t true or accurate. It establishes premature trust and makes a kid feel obligated to stay around this adult. He says things like, “We’re sure in a mess, aren’t we?” Teach your child to say to a stranger, or to someone they know but do not trust, “I didn’t ask for your help, and I don’t want it. Leave me alone.” This isn’t wrong. It’s wise.
Charm and Niceness: In order to deceive, you have to remain at least one step ahead of someone. Charm and niceness can hide intent and give a head start. People who take control of others almost always pretend to be nice in the beginning. Teach your children that “nice” is not the same as good. This is especially important for girls, who are generally expected to be warm and friendly toward adults.
Too Many Details: Con artists often use too many details to tell the story because they know that since it’s not true, the story must be sold. After a while, details can wear down a person’s defenses, as dishonest salespeople know well. Teach your child to consider context by asking herself, Why is this person talking to me in the first place, and why is he telling me so many things?
Typecasting: This involves a slight insult, initially one that’s easy to refute. “You’re one of those kids who’s too scared to disagree with your parents, aren’t you?” It’s designed to get a child on the defensive, breaking down resistance. Teach your child he does not have to answer every question put to him. In some cases, short answers like “Whatever” are appropriate.
Loan-Sharking: Predators will often give a child something (the common example is candy) to make her feel indebted. It can also be advice or sympathy: “Your parents don’t listen to you, do they? I’m glad to listen. I care about you even when others don’t.” Teach your kids not to accept gifts from people who want something in return. Otherwise it’s not a gift—it’s a debt installment.
The Unsolicited Promise: Someone promises to do something for a child who never asked for it but is getting it anyway. "Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.” Promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees. Nor does such a person behave in a way that he will guarantee anything. If he did, it would expose his deceitful intent. When someone provides an unsolicited promise, teach your child to think, You’re right, I am hesitant to trust you. Thank you for making that clear.
Discounting No: Anyone who chooses not to hear the word no is trying to control your child. A frequent (and potentially dangerous) response in this situation is negotiation: “I really appreciate your offer, but let me try to do it on my own first.” Teach your child, instead, to say out loud what she’s really thinking. If that’s “Bug off,” she should say it. Teach her to look a person in the eyes with strength, to walk away, and to be loud if necessary. De Becker says, “You cannot turn a decent man into a violent one by being momentarily rude, but you can present yourself as an ideal target by appearing too timid” (and nice).
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