Saturday, September 17, 2005

day care woes

There was a recent question to the TCS list about a pre-verbal child who protests at the transition to day care, but then goes on to have a lovely time (according to the day care providers). I responded as my thoughts developed, in several messages. This is more structured.

1. Let’s assume that the child really does enjoy going to day care while the parent works. The parent needs to be pretty sure of this assumption before working on it.

It may be that all that is needed is a different approach to the transition. Allow an extra hour for mooching around the puddles in the day care car park, or for playing with the child at day care? 5 minutes of puddle hopping seems a long time when you are late, but nothing at all when you have an hour's leeway.

Alternatively, perhaps the child would prefer to be taken to day care by hir father, or maybe they'd rather say goodbye at home, and have another trusted adult take them to day care?

A good threshold game is playing peek-a-boo around the door one hopes the child will eventually want to go through. And making sure one goes on playing peek-a-boo with furniture props well into the room. Maybe one of the day care staff could be primed to go on with the peek-a-boo game? Then child's transition to day care could be very gradual.

2. Let’s assume that the child does not want to go to day care. Parents now need to brainstorm WILDLY.

Perhaps one parent could do their work at home or in the evenings, perhaps with a baby sitter in the house (a trusted teen? A devoted grandparent?). Perhaps a parent could take the child to work with them (either on an occasional basis, so they can see what is happening when they are at day care, or even on a regular basis). Perhaps two people could job share, each looking after their combined children in one of their houses while the other works.

Perhaps one of the parents would like to stop working for money and be at home with the child?

It would certainly be worth doing the maths of income minus day care = remainder and think of other ways which would make parent happy to earn that remainder, not involving child care.

3. If the current situation involves leaving the child crying in the day care provider's arms, the parent is teaching their child a big lesson: "when the chips are down, parent cannot be relied upon for assistance". Will that not come back and bite the parent later on? It has to damage the parent/child relationship, quite apart from not taking the child's NEED not to be left seriously.

4. I think it is also worth bearing in mind that children are designed to be pretty well glued to parents or similarly close carers until sometime in their second year, at least. The nursery scenario is a cheap way of enabling parents to work, but it is not optimum for many children ever, depending on personality.

IME, children thrive in small mixed-age groups rather than in same-age groups, which most nurseries don't offer. A 4 year old is much more interesting to a 2 year old than another 2 year old is.

Sure, we have to be creative to be parents as well as earning money; the difficulties associated with finding ways of paying the bills do not excuse following the herd and abandoning our children to something sub-optimal, however.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The product mentality

APInternational, the attachment parenting organisation, has the motto "Peaceful Parenting for a Peaceful World"

The underlying message is clearly that if you attachment parent your children - breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, baby wearing - your children will likely turn out to be gentle and peaceful people.

Unfortunately, the API logo writer had not read The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. She argues - pretty compellingly, as far as I've got - that the major influence on how children turn out is not how their parents treat them, but what their peer group is like. There are genetic effects and indirect genetic effects, but the people children mdel themselves on, once they leave their mother's knee, are their peers.

If you want your child to be peaceful, live in a commune where the whole community is peaceful.

I think Attachment Parenting is a splendid way to treat very small people. But do it because it makes parents and children happier, not because you have some ultimate goal for your child's mature personality.