By Dickson Tumuramye
When interacting with a toddler, you may underestimate their understanding, forgetting they are always observant and inquisitive. Sometimes, my children have seen me do things with their mummy and they boldly asked “daddy, why have you done this to mummy?” I am always amused about their intellectual ability, but as an adult, sometimes you play it cool or try to explain but the real lesson sinks deep depending on the issue.
In my years of work with children, I have learnt that children go through situations and they have stories to share out. They come and narrate to me what their parents/guardians did to them in the course of the week. As they say; walls have ears; I hear them talk things with their fellow children and wonder whether they are children or adults. Children can share secrets innocently or what they saw whether good or bad. I sometimes gone and pick my children from school and teachers interact with me about the things my son shares with other children. This leaves me shocked, but curious to know where he learnt or heard such things from.
This has made me understand that our children regardless of their age, do understand well, store information and one once given an opportunity, they will share it. I know your child has ever asked you some questions, whose response you postponed because you yourself don’t have an immediate answer. Even when you know it, you are not sure whether it’s appropriate to give that answer or to think of an alternative.
This is where you need wisdom before answering than saying something wrong that will create mistrust, or you lie to cover up. It’s better to give an age appropriate and right answer with clear explanation than lying or ignoring the question completely. Sometimes, you may be forced to respond toughly in order to discontinue further discussion. This will not help you to intimidate your child; neither he/she will be helped to get his/her answer as well. Instead of intimidating your child and creating fear to ask you other questions next time, at least promise to give the answer next time and please don’t just keep quiet thinking your child will forget.
If he/she forgets, well and good. But if the parent can’t provide the appropriate and right answer to his/her child, then expect your child to get it from any other source. However, the challenge may be that this answer may be wrong and it will come with a cost or leave you in regret for the rest of your life. If you completely don’t know the answer, consult others who can help you with the right one.
Never despise their understanding in relation to their age. These are adults but in small bodies. With current exposure to social media, reading and internet everywhere, children sometimes are more informed than their parents. This is why we need to be keen and listen to them carefully. Create time to always share with them freely, you will be able to know what and how much they know. Our teenagers are always seeking information to prove that they are knowledgeable and informed.
You need to sharpen their understanding with right information. When a child knows that you always provide right answers, he/she will always trust you and will always consult you on anything without fear. As they grow, the will even confide in you with their secrets and you will become one of their best friends.
The writer is a child advocate, Kampala.