Quite a while ago, I wrote a post about the 7 deadly sins of childcare parenting, from the point of view of carers. It was the product of extreme frustration!
Today I'm feeling frustrated too, but it's not with the parents. The boot's on the other foot today- I'm reflecting on some of the blatant errors I've seen over and over again from carers.
So here's the balancing post. Here are some things that carers commonly get wrong.
1. Different strokes for different folks, part (a)
Oh my, this makes me mad. Some carers seem to think that they are somehow superior to the children they're caring for, and so don't need to observe the same behavioural boundaries.
So we get the carers who tell the children to wash their hands before meals, but don't wash hands themselves (and then serve up without so much as a glove on, or stick their hand into the fruit plate to grab a grape while telling the kids to USE THE TONGS!). We get the carers who tell the children to be quiet by shouting at them. We get the carers who insist the children say please and thank you, but won't do the same themselves- neither to their colleagues, nor to the children. I could go on and on with examples here, and sadly it's always the same people exhibiting these blatantly non-constructive behaviours.
What this behaviour says to me is that this carer feels very insecure. Childcare isn't a power game. Carers are already bigger and louder and more powerful than children. Someone who gets their kicks from emphasising the power ratio has a personality problem that needs to be addressed.
Such carers are also demonstrating their ignorance of basic ECE principles. Children learn through modelling, not through being told. You don't lessen your influence over the children by doing the same things yourself that you want them to do- you increase your influence.
2. Different strokes for different folks, part (b)
Then there are the carers who treat children differently from each other based not on the child's needs, but on some hierarchy of their own devising.
The director's daughter, for example, is allowed special privileges so she'll 'like' that carer and report back favourably. A personal friend's children get more time and more attention, and the parent who's a friend gets more feedback, as a mark of friendship. A child with special needs (including being gifted) is labelled as 'difficult' and given less affection, more unsympathetic direction- because that saves the carer from having to wrestle with the real dilemmas involved.
A carer who discriminates like this isn't winning anyone's respect. Favoured children don't respect a carer who they can manipulate; they become even more difficult for everyone to manage, as they test how far they can go. Needy children who are denied their fair share of the attention pie will become more demanding, or will withdraw (which is in itself more demanding, as barriers can be hard to break down once erected).
This carer makes life harder for everyone around them.
3. Pay me to think
Gotta love the carer who never puts a moment's thought into what they're going to do while they're at work. It's all on the run, because you know, the wages are so low that I'm not going to spend My Time thinking about work. So on arrival out come the same old toys, out come the same old paints, a few books get chucked on the shelves. (Group time? Oh, I'll work that out when I get there. I'll just grab a book I've never seen in my life before and get half the words and all the expression wrong as I read it, because I'm not even listening to myself, let alone thinking about it as education.)
They're the first to complain that the children, who've had no experience whatsoever of structure or routine, won't do what they're told. They're the first to complain and blame the children when boredom sets in, when group time becomes diabolical with children swinging from the rafters instead of sitting on the mat listening, when the paperwork comes due and no thinking or planning has been done at all. Damn this EYLF, damn this programming! Damn these children!
They're the first to complain that they get no job satisfaction.
The irony is that the more you put into it, the easier it gets. The longer you've been planning your work, the less time it takes to plan your work. The more experiences you plan, the bigger your personal library of ideas for each demographic of children. The easier it gets, the more fun it is, till you get to the point where you actually realise what a privilege it is to be working with children every day.
It ONLY gets easier if you put in the effort.
Honestly, if your heart isn't in it enough to consider the kids' needs and interests and actually enjoy planning the day's stimuli and experiences, you really do need to find another career.
4. Children? What children?
How I love the carer who spends the whole day talking to the other carers over the children's heads. (I've even seen one who does it when she's supposed to be taking group time, while all the kids sit politely on the mat waiting in silence. Ha ha. Or not. And then she has the hide to yell at them?!)
That's also the carer who gossips to one parent for half an hour in the yard, completely ignoring her supervision duties. Honey, I really don't want to know where you got your spray tan, and probably neither does Mrs Brown. And while you're yaddering on about nothing, who's watching the children?
I'm even more fond of the one who talks to the other carers about the children, over their heads. News flash: children are not deaf. Children have feelings too. STOP IT.
5. Dinosaur syndrome
Then there's the archaeological carer. Her knowledge base is firmly rooted in the past- in her own parenting methods, her own childhood experiences, her long-outdated education. His resistance to change, including professional development, is astounding; it's his way or the highway. Research evidence is rejected with a sarcastic laugh and a finely-tuned and original riposte such as "what that child needs is a paddle on the backside- it never did me any harm" or "children aren't taught any manners / respect / discipline these days".
When you stop learning, you don't stand still at the top of the heap. You don't get to a point in your education where you can just stay sitting on top of some pedestal and lording it over everyone. When you stop learning, your knowledge starts to crumble, because life is dynamic. Society is dynamic. You have to keep moving and keep learning and keep improving, or you end up extinct. If you want to be extinct, please get out of my way, go lie in the mud and wait to be turned into a fossil. In fact I may just provide the seismic event to help you along your way.
6. It's okay. It's not okay. It's okay. It's not okay.
A little consistency goes a long way in childcare.
How about this example? A carer talks about nutrition, tells the children how cake is a 'sometimes' food, stresses that it rots your teeth and makes you fat.
Then the giant cupcakes come out at morning tea because it's someone's birthday. Everybody's eyes light up. No reference whatsoever is made to the food pyramid. The kids get an individual cupcake each that's bigger than their head because that's how the cake was presented and nobody on staff has ever heard of a knife, and the carer scoffs three herself while talking loudly to the other carers about how she loves cake and always eats too much of it. The others reassure her that this is perfectly normal, they're the same... scoffing another cake each themselves...
Oh dear. Please, can we be just a little bit holistic about things? Can we not look at what we teach in the 'educational' pigeonhole as being completely separate from how we behave the rest of the day? Don't you know the kids are watching you and listening to you?
7. Gotta prove I'm smarter than you
Last but not least is the carer who just can't wait to show that she or he knows something the child doesn't. Never mind that children learn by doing, not by being told; this carer's far too impatient and full of ego to let kids figure things out for themselves, to let them struggle with a problem, to support instead of doing it for them.
This is the carer who puts their hand on the child's hand to 'help' them fit that pesky wooden jigsaw piece into the hole, then 'helps' them finish it by putting in half-a-dozen more pieces themselves. "Oh look, it's finished!" (You want me to clap?)
This is the carer who refuses to let a child climb into the lowest fork of a tree, barely six inches off the ground. "You'll fall and hurt yourself." (Meaningless. And almost certainly wrong, if you'd only butt out and stop making me doubt myself.)
This is the carer who tells the group of boys that their car ramp will fall down, butts in and makes a better one for them. (You want me to clap?)
There's no learning happening in these interactions. The carer hasn't put themselves in the child's shoes. Doing things for someone as a means of 'helping' is an adult construct; nine times out of ten, these children neither want nor need help, though they often enjoy the company. Giving predictive advice ("you'll fall", "that ramp will break") is an adult construct; these children need to find out these things for themselves in order to learn.
No, when a person who's been educated in child development does this sort of thing, it's often all about the carer feeling superior because they're the leader. They're the one doing the showing how. (You sure you don't want me to clap? I can clap if you like...)
It's more than a little pathetic.
Well, that feels better now I've got that off my chest! Do you recognise some of these people? Do you recognise yourself, even? I've been guilty of some of these sins along the way, though I've learnt better these days. (I'll admit to having had to work my way through 5, 6 and 7- and 7 has been the hardest habit to break.)
What other 'sins' can you add to my list?