Monday, May 18, 2009

The Problem with Child Care

I have experienced this problem for the entirety of my employment through the YMCA's child care program. I'm not trying to put down the YMCA. I actually think that the Y does a great job doing what they can with other people's kids. The issue has to do with the fact that the teachers, leaders, and directors in the programs are not the kids' parents. Because of that, there are many guidelines regarding how we handle the children. For example, this photo shows appropriate/inappropriate ways of displaying affection to the kids (click photo to enlarge). I understand that the purpose of these restrictions is to protect the staff from being accused of molesting the children or whatever. However, I believe that we could be risking some of the kids' futures because of this. Aren't we supposed to be doing what is best for the kids?

The problem with child care is discipline. I have encountered this problem recently with a certain 3rd grader. I love this boy so much because he has so much potential. He has great leadership abilities, all of the other kids follow him, he has tons of energy, he loves having fun, and he is extremely smart when he applies himself. Unfortunately, he has a difficulty with authority. I tell him to do one simple little thing and he pushes it to the point where I have to sit him down for a timeout or to give him a break to calm down. Once he is calm and we have a talk, he twists my words so that I'm the bad guy. He doesn't understand that discipline is done out of love. I want him to grow up to respect authority and to understand that if he keeps making bad choices, then it will cause problems for him in the future. He must learn this when he is young in order to prevent these issues from appearing as an adult. Once he grows up, he could get fired from his job, have confrontations with the police, and/or have detrimental relationship issues. 

He tells me that he thinks I discipline him because I enjoy seeing him in pain. He believes I actually single him out and pick on him for fun. I have to consistently tell him that I discipline him because I want him to grow up to be a good man. I discipline him because I care about him. He doesn't believe me. At this point, because of these child care guidelines, I am not allowed to hug him and kiss him and show him that I really do care about him. Because that is what he needs in the moment. I tell him that I care about him, but I can't show it! Sure, I talk calmly with him and be respectful to him, but that is nothing in comparison to holding him in my arms and actually show him love. The love that a father shows his son. These are crucial moments in the development of a child and if these moments are missed, then this kid's future is cloudy. Discipline is all for nothing when the child doesn't understand its purpose. Its purpose is to build up, to train, to teach, to strengthen, to encourage, and to love.

Thankfully, I can go home at night, spill out my sadness to my wife, and pray to Jesus that He will save this kid. I look at my group of kids at school every day and can identify which ones are heading towards crappy marriages, or getting fired from their jobs, or going to prison. And I can only do so much. I do my best when I'm interacting with them and I pray for them when I'm at home. Only Jesus is the one who can soften their hearts and redeem their rattled little lives. I can rest in that.