It was a fine morning.
We were on our way to my daughter’s school. As we stopped for a red light at an intersection, a man in ragged clothes approached our car and stood outside the passenger door. He knocked and gestured ‘give me [money]’. He’s a street beggar. For our own protection, we kept our windows closed and our doors locked. He stood there for a little bit and then moved on to the next car.
Green light came on, we took a right and into the street. My daughter, Iya, asked us (me and my wife), “Why some people just ask money?”. I said, “Because working [for money] is hard and maybe they don’t want to do it. Or, they can’t get work because they did not finish school”. I glimpsed at her, wondering if I made my point. I could have said a lot more possible reasons why the man ended up the way he is – like some of them are victims of circumstances and so on and so forth – but I was trying to make use of the situation to inspire Iya on going to school so I cut my response short. She replied, “Mommy, Daddy, when I grow up…”. Those words were enough to send our thoughts at an alarm. My wife, An, feared the next words would be I will just ask for money or something along that line. We braced ourselves for what’s to come. It was as if everything was in slow motion and soundless until the next words “…I will just take care of Ivi (her baby sister)”. I noticed a certain note of sadness and sincere concern in her voice. I was curious as to why. Then Iya continued, “I don’t know how to work”.
An and I were both quiet. Carefully crafting a way to handle the situation. We recently learned that kids at her age act by emotions and not by rationale, so telling her ‘you will learn how to work eventually’ or ‘you’ll need to work when you get older’ is not a good option. Then what to do next? What could she have been feeling?
Then I understood. She’s probably referring to what she sees mom and dad are doing when working. She doesn’t know how to do those things right now. I recall one time, I was working late into the night. She woke up and saw me engrossed with my tasks. She sat beside me and said, “Can I help you?” Because she wanted me to get some rest already and in her young mind, she thinks if she can help, then work will be finished faster. So I gave her my laptop and she quickly figured she don’t know what to do. Thus, she don’t know how to work! However, she considered taking care of her baby sister, because that’s something she thinks she can do. Because she sees us – babysitters included – doing that. And it is something she understands at her age. We concluded that she was acting on her emotions with inputs from things she already understands and has exposure on. So instead of bringing the conversation elsewhere, and become a limiting parent, I simply said, “Ok, you can focus on taking care of your sister for now.”
Understanding our childrens feelings or emotions is something we found to be useful when dealing or conversing with them. I used to force rationale in our discussions but I realized I am only limiting her imaginations and choices. We have been practicing and experimenting on this recently and we have been getting good response. If you are a parent, (aunt, uncle, grandparent, babysitter) you might want to take this approach next time you get in a counter rational conversation with your kids. But, keep in mind that every child is different and this might not work the same way for everyone. Please feel free to share your own approach in the comments.