Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Day Care and Aggression

My reading of the literature suggests that my child could be more aggressive and have better language skills as a result of day care. Both of these stereotypes seem to be true in my daughter. On the other hand, DH and I are both pretty hot-tempered and pretty verbal ourselves, so maybe it would have worked out the same way regardless of day care.

The aggression finding says that 17% of day-care children have elevated behavioral issues such as gets in fights, is uncooperative or demands/wants attention. Well, 83% of day care children DON'T show these issues and I'm not sure I consider the last one - demands/wants attention an issue. Maybe that's just assertiveness. Depending on how you compare this data (normative sample vs. at-home) sample it may not even be an issue. 17% of the normative population had these behavior issues vs. only 5% of the at-home population. And that study didn't control for quality of the care, so maybe this isn't a problem in my situation.

Assuming for a moment that it's true that, what is the cause - the lost time with the parent or the activities in the day care? Given what I've seen, I think the behavior issues have more to do with what goes on at the day care than time specifically spent without me. The cause of this aggression isn't that she's not with mom, but has more to do with how the day care handles sharing and toddler property rights. To me, this has everything to do with enforcing property rights as has been discussed on the list before. The day care workers often force the kids to share or just take the toy away. I think if we had some different examples of honoring the rights of the holder, letting them keep it until they were done, we'd have less behavioral issues. So I'm with the camp that advocates for higher quality day care. But again, these are my experiences with my one kid. Maybe if the next one goes to the same day care and has an easier time sharing, I won't think it's the day care.

But back to my kid. I see her with the neighborhood children and she definitely seem a bit more grabby and a bit less willing to bend. She needs to get her way! Is this more so than other 2 year olds? Hard to know for sure, but it seems like it. But then maybe I'm just extra critical because I'm her mom.

One day when I was feeling really crummy, I was talking to mom and this other mother, who has a 3 year old, a 13 year old and a 23 year old. She's a chiropractor who extended breast feeds, doesn't vax, stays home with the babies. There are 2 other kids there, one her daughter and one a very shy introverted girl a little older. I'm feeling so terrible as my girl is grabbing things and having a meltdown. Anyway, Mary, mother to 3 children confirms that in her observations, my DD is the one who won't bend. And I internalize this, like it's my fault. And then I have a mommy melt-down and start crying. So Mary tells me that her middle kid, her son, was just the same way. He was the one who had the tantrums and the meltdowns. He came out wired in a way that her 2 girls just weren't. This isn't necessarily the mother, but it's simply the way kids are sometimes.

So then I remember being the hospital and trying to get my DD to latch the first few times. DD came out with great head control and I remember the feeling of her wiggling her head back and forth in my birth canal. One LC is trying to RAM (Rapid Arm Movement, but it means the same) her head onto my breast and DD is fighting me the whole time. We push her head and she pushes back. I get anxious and frustrated, DD is nodding furiously trying to get to the milk she smells. The next day another LC comes in and sees DD "fighting" us. So she has the idea that DD wants to do it herself and has me lie flat and just let DD find her way to my breast. This works better. And in the first few weeks we continue to have these issues where DD fights me to get on the my breast. She just wanted to do it herself. So I dunno, she was pretty "unbendable" when she was first born, too. Maybe it's not the day care? Plus of the children in the study some 61% were in low-quality day care, and I think I've got high quality day care.

We do have issues where she'll come home with some coercive language and I'll use her dolls to roll play what I would do about the situation. One thing she says is "Dolly hit baby. Dolly you go to time out." And then I will go to dolly and hold her in my lap and tell her I think maybe she needs some "lovins" and extra snuggling because she must be feeling a little scared. And sometimes when I'm really edgy and triggered myself, I put me in timeout and say I need a break. My DD doesn't hit or bite so much herself, but we work this Dolly dialog out over and over again.

We had a parent-teacher conference and I can't remember what we were talking about, but it was a dialog from the provider that I thought could have gone differently. I very respectfully and gently suggested to her, that if it felt right she might try saying ________ instead of _____________. She agreed that she would do that. It's very important to me that I validate my DCP own instincts to respond to their kids as see fit and feel comfortable. I don't want to have any kind of adversarial relationship with them.

One thing I do notice is that as her mother, I tend to internalize her problems, as if they were mine or I caused them. I think this is a really Western thing that we feel so responsible for what our children do and how they act. The DCPs act with that kind of adult-leadership that children need. This is what we are going to do - walk down the hall to the music room, lay on our cots and go to sleep, have a story. If a kid is having some issue, I don't think the DCPs feel like the *have* to make it better or that it's somehow their fault. This lets the kid over the issue quicker I think without feeling wrong inside. When my kid has an issue I feel really bad about it and want to make it better. And she must feel like she's lost her parent-leadership and the issue gets worse. When I internalize her issue or tantrum and think it's my fault, I think she might feel "wrong" inside. Certainly, as a Day Care it's child-centered, but it has the kind of leadership where the kids are simply expected to do the "done thing." At the same the DC is tolerant and cognizant the developmental issues of kids. Kids aren't expected to do things beyond their level. I'm not sure I'm expressing myself here. In some ways, I think my providers are more Continuum Correct than me because they can simply let the kids be without having to FIX something or feel responsible for it.

Frankly, I never worry at all about my relationship with my daughter or the quality of our connection. We enjoy and kind of intimacy together that she doesn't have with anyone else.

One concept we talk a lot about on the CC list is expectations. The parents expect the baby to take care of itself at the edge of the pit. They don't expect it to be harmed. You know what? I have no expectations that my child is harmed because she is in day care. I have a connection and bond with my daughter simply because I INTEND to have that bond.

So here is the real nut - if you are going to work OWN IT! Don't buy into the notion that there are REAL reasons to work or GOOD reasons to work. Don't let anyone sit in judgment over your decisions. They don't get to decide real reasons vs. fake reasons, you do. Work if you want to work, and don't if you don't. I'm blessed to have close friends of many different economic strata. I certainly know families who survive on much less income than DH and I. I'm certain we could live on my salary alone if we wanted or his salary alone if we wanted. That's not a choice we want to make right now and thank heavens it hasn't been forced upon us.

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