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"where are all the bad people at?"

A friend of mine on Facebook sent me this message today...

"Cody....ok....put this one out there....How do answer this question to a 5 year old..."WHERE ARE the bad people?"

It kinda struck me... made me think. 

The first thing that popped into head was... "I love that this 5 year old has that question" ... it's very cool that this kid doesn't know and is inquisitive... my 12 year old asks me a million questions a week... it leads to good thinking, smart kids. 

Then I started really pondering what was going on in that kids mind and what I felt an appropriate response was. 

I gotta make assumptions... actually understanding the mind of 5 year old is truly an impossible task. 

I assume this child has lived in an environment that has not lead to being around people normally classified as "bad"... this is a good thing! I am not a fan of sheltering older kids/teens from the potential evils of the real world... but at 5... yes... its ok if the warthogs on kung-fu panda are the most evil things they have been physically exposed to. 

I am also assuming that this child's parents have discussed things with them about "not talkng to strangers" and other mandatory parenting phrases... I am assuming that is where the question derived from.

Ok assumptions out of the way... it's very interesting to me to ponder good and bad ways to answer kids questions.

I don't know the answer to how to answer this little one's question... but I wanna discuss some things I think are do's and don'ts.

Don't lie to the kid: I don't think you should tell them "don't ever worry about it" or "There's no bad people in our world." It's good the kid is wondering, it's a natural instinct in children to wonder how things work, it's how they learn and become smart productive adults. But, if you lie to them... they became dumb adults, misinformed adults. Not saying you have to go into details with them about the bad things people do, or FBI National Crime statisitics... but it's good for the kid to know our world isn't all cartoons and reality shows. (A few of the bad people are on reality shows) 

Do stop everything else and converse with the kid: I see so many people (and have been guilty myself) of giving the over the shoulder dismissive response to children asking questions like this. The kid yells out "Hey Dad why do you have to got to work everyday?" and Dad nevers takes his eyes of the T.V. and yells back "because my boss says so"... conversation ends and the kid just got dumber instead of smarter. Take the time to face them, get on their level and converse, discuss the question. In my opinion the single best parenting trait I have is the willingness to say to my kids "I have no freaking idea, but Google might" we break out a phone or laptop and try to figure out the answer to every question we can. I'm pretty dumb... so my kids are masters of research... Plus I get smarter in the process... Me likes being smarter. 

Like most of my posts... as I get to the end... I have no idea what the hell I am talking about here... but its was fun talking to myself as I typed. 

I think my response would have been:

 "Well buddy, there are some bad people in every place in the world... and we have to be aware of that, but always remember that in every place there are more good folks than bad. So trust your instincts and find the good folks you can trust and be a good trusting person to them" ... I imagine the 5 year old would have said "What's instincts daddy?" and I would said... "don't worry about that... I will be here to be a daddy til you figure that out" ... or something like that.


  1. Cody, I think your "get down on their level and converse with them" is an awesome philosophy.

    I might be a bit jaded, being in my line of work and all, but your assumption that they probably haven't been exposed to "bad people" if they are asking seems off to me. But again, it might just be that I am jaded.

    In my line of work I find that sometimes when kids ask questions like that it is to "feel you out" to see how you would react if they spring something else on you. Five years olds are wiser than you think. Kids often are careful about what they tell people because of the reactions that they have received when saying something similar to someone else.

    I think when I got down on their level with them to converse, instead of immediately answering them, I would start off with a "Why do you ask that?" (Or another open ended question that allows them to talk a bit more - "Are you worried about someone that you think might be a "bad person"?, etc)

    After gaging the reason for the question -- quite possibly a completely innocent reason for them asking-- then I would continue with something like you said if I didn't see any reason for more concern.

    If I thought there might be more reason for concern, then I would reassure and ask more open ended, non-leading kinds of questions to gage whether there was enough reason to make some type of report.

    Just my two cents!

  2. I get what you are saying Shellie... This was a grandkid asking a grandma... So I think it was a little different situation than your work... But very good comment! Thank you.

  3. Hmmm, interesting Cody, especially your response to Shellie. Are you saying a "grandchild" would not come to a "grandma" with that type of question if there was a "issue" or something "bigger" than them just not understanding "where bad people are?" I know you probably have the "behind the scenes info on this" but lots of grandma's are a very strong influence on children and one that they trust and would go to with "big situations." I'm with Shellie on this one..I would wonder "why" is the child asking about this in a more serious manner, hoping to find out "that's it's nothing but curiosity." I don't happen to be one of those "grandma's" but do feel there are alot of them out there in this crazy world. Guess it's just the difference in how each of us would take the question.

  4. You know we don't get those reports first. Most often a child will tell someone close to them, someone that they can trust, like a grandma. So, while the question may just be curiosity, perhaps they just watched Batman and Robin and know that Batman hangs at the Batcave and they just want to know where the Joker hangs, but if there is a chance at all that they want to share something more, I want to be open to hearing it. So asking "Why do you ask?" or "Are you worried about a bad guy?" can't really harm anything, you aren't putting anything into their heads to cause worry. Perhaps they just need a trusted adult to talk to.

  5. Ok... Mom and Shellie...

    Thanks so much .. great comments..

    The whole point in me making the assumptions that I did in the post and pointing out that they were assumptions was that not only did I not really know the circumstances... but the circumstances weren't what the post was about...

    I wanted the post to be about answering kids questions... dealing with kids inquisitiveness and using it to develop a relationship with them and helping them to develop in life.

    I think you are both absolutely right... if there is a situation where a child asks me this question and I have any doubts as to why they are asking it... I would want to probe further into it... figure out "why" they asked it.

    But If I had a situation where a child had been told "not to talk to strangers" because some strangers are "bad people" and the child then asked "where are the bad people at?" because that child had lived in an environment where they were only exposed to basically good people so far in there lives... Those were the assumptions I was making for the sake of this post.

    Again thanks for reading and adding to it with some great comments.


I love the discussion in the comments.. so... GO FOR IT!

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