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The big bad wolf may be out there

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Children's literature helps young people learn important life lessons. For example, the story of Little Red Riding Hood tells about good versus evil. Even though violence is involved in the story, this generally is not the message that children pick up. According to David L. Russell (2009), "Folktalkes are dark and filled with violence, but they are also filled with power and redemption. As such, they assist children in their inevitable transformation from a state of helplessness to one of action and self-realization," (Literature for Children: A short introduction, 6th ed, p. 202).

In a child's world, the big bad wolf can be found in a variety of disguises. He/she may come in the form of a doctor, a member of the criminal justice system, a priest/minister, a teacher, neighbor, or any other number of guises. Many times, it is a person in a position of trust and safety. Not all people can be trusted, though, no matter what their position or title. This is when it is important to pay attention to the people who are a part of a child's life. If a child seems apprehensive about being around someone, voices a concern, or other indiscretion, a parent needs to follow up on it--especially if the complaint is repetitive. Something could be happening that a parent may not otherwise be aware of. It could be nothing; but, it could be something. Without checking, it is impossible to know. More and more, reports of various types of abuse are making the news. Like a bad drug addiction, abuse carries with it many long-term effects.

A parent is looked upon, by a child, as his/her greatest supporter. A parent is expected to look out for the well-being of a child. When this is not the case,the big bad wolf wins and the child loses. This is a saddening situation, as then the parent becomes a form of the big bad wolf, too. According to Jess Feist and Gregory J. Feist (2009), "If parents do not satisfy a child's needs for safety and satisfaction, the child develops feelings of hostility toward the parents. However, children seldom overtly express this hostility as rage; instead, they repress their hostility toward their parents and have no awareness of it. Repressed hostility then leads to profound feelings of insecurity and a vague sense of apprehension. This condition is called basic anxiety," (Theories of Personality, 7th ed., p. 168). They continue with, "Earlier, she (Karen Horney) gave a more graphic description, calling basic anxiety 'a feeling of being small, insignificant, helpless, deserted, endangered, in a world that is out to abuse, cheat, attack, humiliate, betray, envy,'" (Horney, 1937, p. 92, as cited in Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 168).

When this happens, a child can become self-destructive with little or no self-esteem, lose confidence, and may even turn to suicidal thoughts or tendencies. This is frightening for all concerned. This also plays a part in the child's future, if not corrected. Issues develop where trust is concerned. Relationships can be difficult, at best. Decision-making can be impossible. If allowed to continue, the anxiety takes over, and life becomes a hardship. Just getting through a day can take a heavy toll on a person living with anxiety.

This is not to say that parents are at fault as to how a child deals with life, although nature and nurturing do play a part. Awareness is a major factor. When a child appears to be faltering, something needs to be done. Seek out proper help. Proverbs 6: 4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord," (New American Bible, 1994). A child looks to his/her parents for instruction, support, and love. When it is not found, a child's life can be shattered. It can take a long time to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Be on the lookout for the big bad wolf that may be out there, lurking in the shadows. Trust in God for the right approach in dealing with the situation if he is found in a child's life. God provides direction, light, and assistance in all things.

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