Published in Byronchild/Kindred as part of a larger feature Who Cares? Making Informed Choices About ChildCare. See also Mothering Matters
I am a formally trained primary school teacher but have spent the last six months working as a group leader within a childcare centre. The centre in which I work is actually a long day care centre and the opening hours are between 6:30am and 6:30pm. I was shocked as I became increasingly aware of how many children actually attend the centre every week day of their tiny lives. Day in and day out these children are dropped off and spend a majority of their waking day growing, maturing, learning, and bonding with the childcare staff. When do these children have time to bond and learn from their parents? During the weekend whilst they’er attempting to catch up on the week’s chores? At night, whilst preparing dinner or watching television? I worry that many of these children rarely or never get an opportunity to spend quality time with their parents.
Today there seems to be an escalating number of reasons for which parents are placing their children in care at this excessive rate. Most of these reasons culminate in one conclusive explanation: life is simply too busy, more often both parents are required to work and more often there are single parents who are quite obviously in the same situation. My concern is with the children who spend a majority of their lives within a daycare centre. These children are often donned ‘daycare kids’ by insiders and I believe there are clear behaviour patterns which emerge in similar distinction among these children. They are usually boisterous children who crave attention to an excess of others; they usually gain some of this required attention through misbehaving — a completely normal childhood behaviour, although their misbehaviour is usually more excessive and tends to be at a higher rate in comparison to other children. I believe these children can often become unstimulated with the day-to-day activities simply because they are there every day. Combine this with their craving for attention and you have a child who more often than not is ‘acting out’ to entertain themselves and/or to get attention.
Inevitably the child ends up getting reprimanded several times a day, if not more, and I can only wonder what repercussions this may have.
Are these the children who move on to primary school and seem unaffected by reprimand and punishment? Do these children continue to crave the attention they have been missing from their parents and therefore continue to misbehave at primary school and possibly high school? Are these possibly the children who we see sitting in detention throughout their lives? The answer is obviously not always yes and there are well-rounded children who still get to spend quality time with their parents out of care and seem happy and unaffected by their excessive time in care.
Regrettably though, on the other hand, as someone who has worked with both primary school and preschool children, I strongly believe there is a well-built connection between an excess of in care time and behaviour issues. The sad truth of the matter is that many parents are faced with few choices except to put their children in full-time care and I myself am unsure of a positive solution to this growing problem.
Published in Byronchild/Kindred, Issue 13