A Child's Perspective on Childcare

"A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When in conflict, the position of authority is the winner by default, regardless of whether or not their position is correct. I believe that this has detrimental effects on individuals, and on society as a whole. Today, we'll be examining childcare from a child's perspective, in an attempt to show what can be done, as parents and leaders, to help our children. I am not a parent, and if I were to give advice to a parent or a person in authority from that perspective, anything I said would be sorely lacking. However, I will be approaching this topic from a different perspective; a perspective that, I believe, is very important and very uncommon.

I was often mistreated as a child. Not by my parents, but by other people in my life. It wasn't an obvious mistreatment, though. It was contempt. Contempt is, according to the dictionary, a feeling or treatment of someone as worthless or inferior. This isn't a conscious action, though. Nobody thinks about the dirt on which they tread. And note that word inferior. People saw me as inferior because I was a child. After all, I wasn't as strong, I wasn't as coordinated, I wasn't as educated or experienced. Doesn't that make me worth less? Nobody would say that I wasn't valuable, of course. That thought isn't one that people will consciously tolerate. But in reality, they believed I was valuable for who I would eventually grow up to be, not for who I was at that moment. And unlike most children, I could tell. They would smile and play with me to keep me happy, but they didn't treat me with the basic respect due to a human being. They didn't keep me happy because they cared, they kept me happy because that made life easier for them.

From the age of five, there was a certain thought that I'd begun thinking. "I'm going to remember this, and when I'm older, I'm never going to treat people like this. I'll never forget what it's like to be a kid." This wasn't for the sake of carrying a grudge or getting revenge. This was because I knew how I felt, and when I was older, I wanted to treat kids better than I had been treated.

Now, examine this for a minute. I was mistreated, and learned something from it. Certainly children will not always be happy. Discipline is a part of raising them. It's a part of helping them grow. And that's why this is so important. Because childcare isn't about the parents, or the teachers, or anyone else in authority. It's about the kids. If a child decides when he's older to leave behind everything his parents ever taught him, he can do that. It doesn't matter if his parents were right. What matters is whether the child believes that his parents were right. If they were right but didn't convince him of that, then they have failed their child.

When I was little, I would ask "why" a lot. The answer was usually, "because I told you to." I learned quickly that the adults were mistaking my request for knowledge as a challenge. To compensate, I tried a variety of tactics. For example, I would consciously smile while doing the task, and only ask "why" afterwards. I would, with my most respectful voice, ask, "would you mind telling me why?" I did everything I could think of. Still, the answer never changed. It was annoying. I wanted knowledge, and that knowledge was being refused. Had I actually been challenging the authority, that answer would have been correct. But there was a difference in the "why" that I was asking. The authority believed that I was asking, "why do I have to do this," when in reality, I was asking, "why does this task need to be done."

As the parents, guardians, babysitters, caretakers, etc., it is our job to think about the details that the child can't see. For example, when two children are fighting in the back seat. In many cases, this is similar to a crude form of policy debate. One child is fighting for the status quo, and the other child is fighting for a change. The easy response, "Quiet down back there!" is automatically deciding that the status quo will remain. Regardless of which child was right, one child has been chosen as a winner without examining the situation. Granted, it is difficult to examine a situation while driving. But what about upon reaching the destination? Or listening to their cases while driving and making a basic decision? Whatever the answer, we need to be aware of what we're doing. We need to realize that childcare is about the children.

I have worked with three and four-year-olds once a week for about four and a half years now. From a parental perspective, I'm certainly inexperienced. But from a child's perspective? We don't consciously recognize the aging process in our day to day lives. But I have chosen to remember a child's perspective. I have chosen to remember what it's like to be young, and I continue to make this choice now, as I am still young. And I put my memories to action with the children. I keep them safe, enforce the rules, keep order... And I love them. My children, though not my own, are still precious to me. I care about them not for who they will become, but for who they are right now. And for their sake, I believe that we should all remember who they are, to raise them as best we can.
"The words with which a child's heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul."
-Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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