Sunday, September 11, 2011

"There are no bad guys in Brookline."

"Let's put this here so people won't have to use their keys," said the almost-six-year-old in my care, trying to prop the door to her apartment building.
"That's a nice idea," I told her, "but we need to lock it for safety."
"From bad guys?"
"Kind of, yeah. It would probably be okay, but we have to be careful just in case, so only people who are supposed to come in will come in."
"But there are no bad guys in Brookline."

To some kids, though certainly not all, bad guys are the stuff of story. In that conversation, I'm not sure whether "Brookline" really meant "Brookline," which is considered a relatively safe area, or whether it meant "real life." Many kids are accustomed to monsters threatening to eat good characters all up, but it's okay, because monsters aren't real.

So how do we--individual adults, and media like kids' books--handle things like 9/11? Do we focus on the victims and hope kids don't wonder too hard about the perpetrators? Do we discuss motive and explain the difference between violent extremism and normal disagreement? Or do we start with the idea that the particular people involved were "bad guys," and that yes, sometimes bad guys are real?

The answers should vary, of course, by child, age, and situation, and I doubt that easy or definite answers exist at all. For now, I'll just feel grateful that today, we have the luxury of taking the time to think about it.

Wishing you peace.


  1. Have you read this? I heard about it on NPR, but haven't looked at it yet.

  2. I haven't yet, but from what I've seen about it, it looks like it'll do well at introducing the subject and letting kids ask their own questions and adults give answers that work for them. Which I think is a good thing.