Friday, March 30, 2007

Daycare for an at-risk child?

This week the results of an important study of children in daycare were reported in the scientific journal Child Development. To read an account of the study see Daycare linked to child disruption. The study of 1364 children is yet another that has demonstrated that the daycare lifestyle leads to increased aggression in at-risk children.

As a mother of an at-risk child, I am not surprised by the findings of this research. My at- risk son requires 1:1 attention to encourage him to be loving as opposed to focusing on dominance. He also needs daily training in the skill of impulse control. He does very well in his small half-day preschool class, where his teachers tell me, “We can tell he has benefited from your teaching. He is very loving and very emotionally intelligent. The karate dance has almost disappeared!” I am convinced that if I was working full-time, I would not have had the time and energy this at-risk child has required.

In contrast, I also have two daughters, who were in daycare, and cared for by a nanny while I worked full-time. Neither of the two girls were ever aggressive or difficult to parent. One of my colleagues used to say that he couldn’t believe how well I was able to balance single motherhood with my professional life. Of course, I never told him the truth. That was that I had very easy kids!

In my opinion we should take the results of this research for what they reveal. That is, some kids do not do well in daycare, even quality daycare. We have to stop thinking that our at-risk kids need anything other than exceptional parenting. When we say that a child is at-risk we mean that he/she may carry the genes that predispose to antisocial behavior, addiction and/or ADHD. Furthermore, children who are truly at-risk show us through their temperaments.

A very good friend of mine runs a community daycare center. Recently, he has had to contend with an aggressive child. The parents of the child act surprised every time the aggression is reported to them. Sadly, they also seem unwilling to amend their fast-paced lifestyle for the sake of their child.

In summary, we should not make a blanket statement that daycare is bad for children or society. Instead, we should acknowledge that some children are not suited for the daycare lifestyle. We should encourage parents to have expectations that suit their particular child. The sacrifices that may have to be made for our at-risk children will be for a finite period of time. The time invested in parenting our at-risk children properly will pay off a thousand fold when they are in grade school.

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