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Bad, bad day care kids!

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published April 1, 2007, thehive.modbee.com   

To children entering kindergarten in 2008, let me apologize now. Seems my heathen brat is going to disrupt your education for years to come.

Or so recent headlines would have you think.

“Poor behavior is linked to time in day care” screamed the New York Times.  “Study: Day care can lead to bad behavior,” proclaimed the Salt Lake Tribune.

The chilling news makes me want to hang my head in abject shame for sending my children to a place that’s a cross between “The Jungle” and “Lord of the Flies.”

Problem: Once you look beyond the headline, the news isn’t chilling.  

 The reality of the “poor behavior:” Day-care kids are not heathen brats who backtalk and bully all day, so maybe I don’t need to apologize.

The study’s lead author admits as much. It’s not be possible to go into a classroom and, with no additional information, pick out which children had been in center cares, Jay Belsky said in a National Institutes of Health news release.

 The reality of the study: Its most recent incarnation was based on 1,076 children who were in fifth or sixth grade in 2004. It started in 1991 with 1,364 newborns, so there’s a huge drop-out rate. The children were studied at only 10 sites across the country, and even the authors admit this is not a true national sample.

 The reality of the findings:   Children who had been in “higher quality” care had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade. Guess that just makes for a more articulate mouthy brat.

The reality everyone ignores:  “Parenting quality proved to be a far stronger and more consistent predictor of tested achievement and teacher-reported social functioning than was child-care experience.” That, folks, is a direct quote from the abstract. Which means the government has spent $200 million over 16 years to discover that parents count. Dang, why can’t I get a research gig like that? 

 The fallout:  Yet another round of Mommy Wars.

My decision to put Big Guy in day care was controversial on both sides of the family. One grandparent called day care “a bunch of (barnyard euphemism),” while another said, “if that baby goes to day care, you are not my child anymore.”

And then there was this from my favorite Sanctimommy, who doesn’t like day care or preschool: “All they learn to do there is fart.”

My kids didn’t need day care for that – both mastered that skill at an early age, and with no formal instruction that I’m aware of. And, yes, Big Guy probably would have a pretty impressive vocabulary even if I’d been a stay-at-home-mom – I’m a fairly articulate mouthy brat, too.

But he wouldn’t have learned to share – which he does pretty well most of the time with kids other than his brother. He wouldn’t have learned to work with peers. He wouldn’t have learned to dive in and play nice with other kids – which he did just today, kicking and passing a ball cooperatively for almost an hour with two boys he’d never met in his life.

And his day care is nothing like “The Jungle” or “Lord of the Flies.” It’s a cheerful, active place he’s happy to go to, once he gets past grumping because he has to wake up. He misses his friends when he’s not there, and he bear hugs his teachers when we get back from vacation.

I feel 100 percent confident that day care was the right decision for my children. It’s unfortunate that Sanctimommies and Neanderthals will look at the misleading headlines from the latest research and start a fresh round of tsking and clucking. And that a working mom somewhere will book a guilt trip as a result.

 The best news : The researchers want to track some of the group into their 20s.

I can predict the findings: 5 percent go to Harvard, and 5 percent go to prison. I also can predict the New York Times headline: “Day care-death row link confirmed.” 

 Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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