Monday, January 23, 2012

Tough But Cautious Love

We had a letter from the nursery last week asking if we would grant permission for their staff to carefully restrain our youngest when he is in the midst of a huge mega-tantrum.

He is a very wilful, determined little boy, our youngest, and a refusal will always offend. But it’s all part of the learning curve and, if you imagine his behaviour as being on a spectrum, then I’d say he’s smack bang in the middle. I’ve seen better behaved boys and I’ve seen a lot worse.

Of course, any kind of bad behaviour, if left unchecked, will result in delinquency of some kind and nobody wants to see a 4 year old joyriding around town in a stolen BMW and selling crack to the local pool club so the rules have got to be laid down and laid down firm.

Karen and I get that. Totally. Needless to say our little ‘un is far more aware of the boundaries at home than he is at nursery and pushes them less. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t push them at all because he does. Sometimes with the determination of a bulldozer.

But nursery... that’s a different story. Like any kid, if he senses weakness, he’ll go in for the kill.

So I totally get where the nursery is coming from with this consent form thing.

But I couldn’t help wondering if it was really necessary. Couldn’t help feeling that it’s necessity for the nursery owners belies a little of what is wrong with the world.

Years ago a nursery worker / care worker / teacher wouldn’t have thought twice about carefully restraining a flailing child – especially if he/she was in danger of hurting him/herself or even others.

But the world it so litigious these days that even an arm-grab can be considered GBH. Picking a child up and placing them on the naughty step can be considered an infringement of their human rights.

You gotta get permission to even give a child a stiff talking to lest you find yourself added to some government offenders’ register.

So what were they doing before they asked for our permission to handle our kid with kid gloves? Kettling him with cotton wool? Directing him into a safe corner with brightly coloured paddles like some kind of 1940’s aircraft landing officer? Or leaving a trail of Valium injected Smarties to the safe haven of the Wendy House?

I mean, it’s nice they’ve asked permission and everything. We don’t want him harming himself or others and likewise we don’t want others harming him. But have they asked permission of the other parents too? Or do they wait until one of the other kids goes off the rails with a Duplo brick and a quoit? I mean just what is the trigger for this “ramping” up of tough but gentle love? The kids are only 3 and 4 for Heaven’s sake!

Isn’t being hands-on with the kids part of the job description? I don’t remember them asking permission to change his nappy when he was 2.

I know the alternative is worse – kids beaten with rods and brutalized. But surely there must be some sensible middle ground?

Or do we want a generation of humans who shy away from any kind of physical contact at all?

No wait. We already have that...



AGuidingLife said...

Difficult pointy finger times. How differently many parents think to me always amazes me. I would have been grateful if someone had tried to stop my child running in front of a car. When I stopped a neighbours child from running out by grabbing onto them she was angry with me. It was mainly because I had said 'NO, STAND STILL' loudly and nobody (I found out) is allowed to tell her son off. I feel that all adults have a responsibility to ensure children don't do themselves or other harm, with or without a bit of paper. Sad pointy finger times.

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: I agree. In other societies the raising of kids is a group, communal endeavour. Sadly, in these troublesome times, the friendly neighbour of old who at one time would have been an "auntie" or "uncle" (and I had loads of these as a child) are now viewed with suspicion and distrust. I realize kids have to be kept safe from abusers - applaud anything that ensures it - but if we're not careful we'll be planting the seeds of total xenophobia in our the minds of our young.

Gorilla Bananas said...

He must have refused to sit on the naughty chair - that's the only explanation. Haven't you taught your children to sit on the naughty chair when they're told? I think you need a visit from Super Nanny.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: I'd love a visit from Super Nanny. Sadly I think she'd be more interested in my kids.

John Going Gently said...

we have a society that is totally frightened of touching others......especially children

it sickens and depressesme.... oh I remember those wonderful days in 1973 when my mother smacked another woman's child in the fishmongers for calling her fat
( by stating fishmonger I mean the shop not a nickname for the arse!)

Steve said...

John: oh if only fishmongers was a euphemism! I may have to start using it that way: "shut up or you'll get a smack in the fishmongers!" My granddad used to talk fondly of being belted around the ear by the local bobby for swinging on the lampposts and then getting a belt around the ear from his dad after the bobby had headed to his home to tell what he'd done.

Those were the days!

Katriina said...

Agree completely, Steve. Teachers here in Finland seem to be a bit less hung up on the "no contact" rule, and I've seen hugs, arm-drags to time-out, children being gently hugged and patted to sleep, and overall a quite refreshingly "normal" approach. Children don't do well without affection, nor without strict boundaries, and it seems odd that daycare providers should have to try to provide good care to children without actually making physical contact!

Steve said...

Katriina: hugs is an interesting one. Our young 'uns loves hugs and the careworkers at the nursery are happy to dole them out... but I do worry that he'll find the transition to schooll difficult where such things are not allowed, even for reception class pupils.

Being Me said...

I'm not comfortable with this at all. Do you think there is any chance you could have some more dialogue with the centre about what circumstances would warrant them to "carefully restrain" your son. And what exactly that means. A firm arm hold sitting on the floor with him, with him facing away? That's the only thing I can think of. But why does he work into that state that they would grant it necessary to restrain him in any way? I can't help thinking if they tried harder to head him off at the pass - at the very least, work with you to find out what triggers him and/or what things you and Karen say and what methods you use at home - so that they can keep the situations better managed.

This sounds a bit sloppy to me, Steve. Sorry. No reflection on the establishment at ALL... I just think perhaps they haven't thought outside the box on this one. Have they tried absolutely everything else?

If they're not willing to work with you, they need a kick in the fishmongers (oh I am SO using that, every day if I can.. bloody brilliant!)

the fly in the web said...

I grew up at a time and in a place when any adult would stop a child doing something anti social or just plain daft.
Children seemed to be a collective responsibility, and if that involved grabbing a child, it involved grabbing a child.

Could we have a law laying down penalties for parents who won't let anyone give their child a ticking off?

Steve said...

Being Me: there's no worry; they've been very clear... things like steering him gently by his shoulders, or with another carer lifting him up beneath his arms if they need to move him (in the case of a fire alarm, etc). And they are too working to head off tantrums - giving him fair warning, etc, and rewarding good behaviour. All of which is working. I think they also accept that he was unsettled by 2 key careworkers leaving after Christmas... naturally it made him push the boundaries to see if they were still there in this new world order. All in all it's working - he was very good last week and is becoming more conscious of his behaviour and what is expected of him. Like I said: it's a learning curve and he's on it. ;-)

The fly in the web: if only. When I was a kid being told off by a family friend or the parent of a school friend was deeply shameful; more so than being told off by my own parents. And therefore very effective.

Being Me said...

Oh I feel much more relieved with your further explanation. I've worked in enough child care centres in my past to know the corners that can be cut. Eye-opener to say the least. Mind you, most recent position I've held was something like 18 years ago now so really.... I'm pulling on my memory of what it was like in practically the "Olden Days".

Steve said...

Being Me: not that long ago, my friend! The nursery on the whole is excellent but sometimes, just sometimes, they do things which are a little bit backwards which is odd given how long they've been running.

Jon said...

I have the opposite situation: 5 y/o daughter is a dream child at all times when at school but demonstrates a tendency to Satan's spawn when at home. Most irksome. I mean, the teachers are paid to keep order: I have to do it buckshee.

Nota Bene said...

Interestingly I sat with someone a while ago who was amused that their child (five of six years old) ran riot and had a habit of regularly punching the other kids. I felt like punching him. I'm all for kids dishing out what they need to in order that the kids can grow up knowing what's right and what's wrong. Too many parents have the oddest way of bringing up their offspring.

Marginalia said...

When I was a kid we had a guillotine in the play room with loads of (headless)toys. In the morning there would be some poor hapless doll or animal with its head on the block.

Any misbehaving from any of us kids the doll got it. Really was a great disincentive to misbehave. However, it gave most of us a warped idea of career choices.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Sometimes I am really, truly glad that I am bringing my children up in Spain.

This constant necessity to cover one's arse is very sad, but I suspect going to get a lot worse while ever there are parents who won't allow their precious offspring to be reprimanded, touched etc.

To me leaving your child in nursery is consent enough for the staff to do whatever necessary (within reason) to get the child to behave in an appropriate manner. Kids need to be able to take discipline from all adults not just their parents.

Löst Jimmy said...

Chokeholds, waterboarding and sleep deprivation apparently works as proven down Guantanamo way.
But I would recommend hugs in the case of your budding wee bulldozer, he'll be fine.

Owen said...

Am all for boundaries, strictly enforced, physically if necessary, of course without brutality or abuse. See far too many examples around of children raised without limits, without exception the results are disastrous. Strange times, where we fear to punish children who need it, and fail to keep criminals in jail... strange times.

Steve said...

Jon: ours is the opposite and at the moment I'd rather he was a devil at home where I know we can deal with effectively. At the moment I am genuinely doubting the nursery's competence.

Nota Bene: sometimes letting the pack regulate itself is the best way... most nursery's are so bound up with H&S guff these days that they won't allow it to happen.

Marginalia: you are not serious??

Very Bored in Catalunya: what is most annoying is that they won't adopt the approach we take at home which has proven to work... they constantly chop and change their approach and wonder why Tom is confused.

Löst Jimmy: it's not rocket science, is it?

Owen: in my experience kids respond well to boundaries. Of course, they'll regularly test them to check they're stil there but that is in the nature of being a child.

Trish said...

Coming in late to the conversation so just hoping things are settling down at nursery for Tom.

Meg said...

Ah yes. As a teacher I can so relate. A couple days ago a nearby school had a six year old decide he didn't want the lunch being served, and proceeded to walk out of the school and a half a mile towards home. No one noticed except mother who was at home. Of course the going opinion is that it was the schools fault. I don't know. I do know he would have gotten a spanking if he were my child (and I basically never spanked my own.) On the other hand if you so much as pass a hand near some children they will yell OW! and fall to the ground, the force is strong in me I guess. It might be time to practice planned refusals to your son,nip it in the bud before it becomes I want a sports car, or I want to be the Captain of the football team.

About Last Weekend said...

Interesting. I know a teacher here in the US who was pulled in and questioned for just putting an arm across empty air when a kid was running down the hallway. Not only would they send that form but ask you to sign. Your son sounds great, i always found my boys to be like puppies forever...constantly in need of a run.

The bike shed said...

Sign of the times - and we're the worse for it too. But these concerns have an inevitable almost unstoppable logic.

libby said...

Have no useful input for you here Steve, but it has been interesting to see what all the others say....these truly are strange times and I hope you are working out what works for you and yours with your usual sense..........that guillotine comment is stuck in my head now!