Daycare’s Illusion

1281127_29232469Preschoolers thrive on continuous individual relationships in a warm, stimulating environment. Spending long days in a daycare center is not the optimal environment for their development.

A few hours – two to three times a week – beginning around age three, in a good center or preschool, will offer social and intellectual enrichment for children.

But a daylong stay in a children’s center could not replace the special bonding, nurturing, teachings, and exclusive sense of belonging that only a good parent can provide.

Conclusive Evidence Against Daycare

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) undertook a large-scale study in 2005 about the effect of daycare on American children.

Among the study’s disappointing findings:

  • Children in childcare get sick more often than children who are reared at home.
  • Infants in daycare were found to be more insecurely attached, less competent with peers as toddlers, more withdrawn and aggressive in preschool and had more problems in school as first graders.
  • Children in childcare tend to be less polite, less agreeable, less compliant, less respectful of others, more irritable and rebellious and more likely to use profane language.
  • The more time spent in childcare was found to correlate with a lesser degree of maternal sensitivity which is associated with poorer linguistic and cognitive development.
  • “The more time children spent in any variety of non-maternal care arrangements across the first 4.5 years of life, the more externalizing problems and conflict with adults they manifest at 54 months of age and in kindergarten.”

The NICHD study also affirmed the importance of the family and home environment:

“Children who received higher quality parenting as indicated by more sensitive, stimulating, and supportive maternal behavior at home and in semi-structured play displayed higher pre-academic skills, better language skills, more social skills, and fewer behavior problems than did children who received lower-quality parenting.”

The Importance of Continuity

Continuous affectionate relationships are essential for regulating children’s behavior, feelings, moods, and intellectual development.

Continuous relationships enable the smooth development of attachment and they foster a sense of belonging. Continuity provides the child with desirable model to identify with and emulate. It offers a reliable source for learning, and a trusted building hand for discipline Continuous relationship also provides an emotional anchor for the child, a solid root.

The type of interactions that are necessary for a child can take place in full measure only with a loving caregiver who has lots of time to devote to the child. A busy daycare provider, with four babies or six to eight toddlers usually won’t have the time for these long sequences of interactions.

A Conspiracy of Silence

In brief, the findings of the NICHD study are clearly negative, giving a straightforward response to parents who seek honest objective information about daycare. These findings are a huge disappointment to daycare advocates. And many people do not like hearing about them.

This leads to a conspiracy of silence among scientists, teachers and other professionals.

This conspiracy of silence must be broken if we want to improve young children’s environment and their early development.

Given this conclusive information about the negative effect of long hours spent in daycare, one can only hope that this information will reach the general public and that parents will use it judiciously.

For more information on the importance of mothers, read “The Drama of the Mother-Child Bond”


Source:
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (edited), Child Care and Child Development (New York: The Guildford Pr., 2005).

A Mother’s Job Description

Note: This article is devoted to mothers. But if a father chooses to stay home with a newborn baby, he could also fill that role.

A Mother's Job DescriptionWhat is a mother’s job description? Why should a young, healthy, and energetic woman, often highly educated and professionally experienced, stay home for a few years with a new baby?

Are the first two to three years of a child’s life worth a mother putting her own career and personal interests on hold?

In a word – yes!

The manner in which you raise your child during these few early years will greatly determine if he/she will be bright or dull, anxious or calm, secure or insecure, much more so than their genetic make-up.

This is true irrespective of your social or economic conditions. It’s that simple.

Childcare responsibilities can be divided into three areas of development.

  1. Physical
  2. Social & Emotional
  3. Mental & Cognitive

Here are a few examples of the absolutely critical role of the mother in all three of these developmental areas.

Physical: More than Just Feeding, Diapering and Bathing

Parents often assume that the essentials of childcare in the first year of life are feeding, changing, bathing, hugging and cooing and an occasional visit to the doctor’s office.

And it would seem that almost anyone qualified could provide those essentials for a baby – a nanny, a daycare worker, a friend or relative.

Yet, we now know that there is much more to proper childcare and good mothering during the early years than was previously thought, and much more to healthy child development.

The best example of the need for emotional connection during those times of feeding, changing, bathing and so on, are the orphanages in some countries where children’s physical needs were met, but without the accompanying emotional care. Many of these children, even at 4 and 5 years of age, were only able to communicate with simple gestures. They were emotionally damaged. Their need for love was palpable and heart-breaking.

Social & Emotional

Emotions dominate our early life more than they will ever again. It is through crying, smiling and fussing that babies elicit a response from their caregivers and through the response to their emotional communications, they either develop feelings of security and confidence, or do not.

Of all the foundational feelings that a young child must experience love is the most important. Ann Daly, a British psychiatrist says: “Of all that the child absorbs from the good mother … the most important are probably loving feelings that are not contingent.”

No one can love a child unconditionally like a mother.

Mental & Cognitive

In the early years of life, a child’s brain develops faster than at any other period of life. The child’s environment, and the adults who are in charge of that environment, have immeasurable opportunity to affect the developing brain’s potential and to shape its future mental capability.

The Centrality of Mom

The importance of the first few years of life and the centrality of the mother in shaping the child’s development during this period is critical. Many parents intuitively understand this.

Yet too many other parents do not realize just how critically important they are during these first few years of life. Lacking this understanding they often make poor child care decisions.

For more information on the critical nature of mothers, read “The Drama of the Mother-Child Bond”

Are More Psychopathic Individuals Headed Our Way?

Psychopathic-Individuals-2We can no longer ignore the recent changes in American society and their effect on the development and behavior of America’s children.

High divorce rates, single-parent homes, the rising use of daycare, teenage parenting, and drug use to name a few, are creating a perfect storm of youngsters who are unable to form close attachment to their parents.

This lack of parental attachments leads to poor relationships with others as adults and is considered by mental health experts to be a root cause for other forms of maladjustment observed in American society today.

According to Dr. Ken Magid, “The prognosis for the future includes the high probability that greater numbers of psychopathic individuals are headed our way…. We may be creating a society in which more and more people without conscience will victimize the innocent.” (i)

We see evidence of this across our country every day. Shootings, violence, bullying. A staggering amount of it from teenagers and ever younger and younger children.

How much of this can be attributed to a lack of parental attachment is unknown. But we can’t ignore the trends. And Magid’s words ring hauntingly true to even the most casual of society’s observers.

The importance and the power of the mother role in particular in the early years of life is staggering. Yet currently de-valued.

“Man and woman power devoted to the production of material goods count as a plus in all our economic indices. Man and woman power devoted to the homes does not count at all. We have created a topsy-turvy world,” (ii) said John Bowlby, the father of Attachment Theory.

“The good mother, the wise mother . . . is more important to the community than even the ablest man; her career is more worthy of honor and is more useful to the community than the career of any man, no matter how successful.” (iii) said Theodore Roosevelt.

Fortunately, more women are rediscovering the importance and joys of motherhood (while remaining cognizant of its many difficulties and required sacrifices). More women are willing to take time off from a fast career track to spend time with their infants and toddlers. In spite of the current under-valuation of their role.

These mothers are heroes. They innately know what clinical psychologist Robert Karen writes about in Becoming Attached:

“Most infants, in order to feel that their love is reciprocated, that they are valued and accepted, and that they are secure enough to happily explore the world, seem to need a lot of unhurried time with at least one person who is steadily there for them – preferably … with someone who is crazy about them.” (iv)

These mothers are the best defense against the trends of higher numbers of psychopathic individuals headed our way. American society should honor them and be thankful to them.

For more information on the critical nature of the mother-child bond, read “The Drama of the Mother-Child Bond”


(i) Dr. Ken Magic, High Risk: Children Without a Conscience, 1987.
(ii) John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss (London: Hogarth Press, 1971)
(iii) Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood (New York, Metropolitan Books, 2001) quoting Theodore Roosevelt.
(iv) Robert Karen, Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994)

Ask Dr. Ada – Separation Anxiety in 18 Month Old

Separation Anxiety in 18 Month OldDr. Ada: Without warning, my son, 18 months, has started crying every time we go somewhere. He is also not comfortable with other people coming to our home. Our pediatrician has been kind, but unhelpful.

Your son manifests separation anxiety. He may have had some unpleasant experience at one of the places where you left him. It may have been a real bad experience or only perceived as such; you will never know.

But he cries in protest and fear whenever he thinks that you are going to leave him with somebody else.

His clingy behavior may also reflect a strong desire for attachment. He may have strong feelings, and at 18 months he wants to be either with you or with his mom and there is nothing unusual about that; this is quite normal.

Whenever you leave the house he is afraid that you are going to leave him with someone else and he shows you his displeasure the only way he can, i.e. crying. Try to spend more time with him, if you can, during those early years, to establish a strong and secure sense of attachment between you and your child.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Selecting a Preschool

Selecting a PreschoolDr. Ada: We have just moved to a new area and are investigating preschools for our 4-year-old daughter.

All of the preschools that we’ve encountered so far seem to have a strong academic emphasis, which worries us. We need to find one that is more play oriented, so we’re considering just hiring an at-home nanny, but we worry that then she won’t have any playtime with other kids.

It is important for your 4-year-old daughter to have playtime experience with other kids. Preschool may not be absolutely necessary for a 4-year-old child if she gets enough stimulation at home, but playtime with other children her age is an absolute necessity.

I think you worry too much about an academic preschool program. All these programs provide also unstructured time for play. My advice to you is to take your daughter along for a visit to some of these programs and observe how she reacts to the place, and if she would like to go there every day.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Separation Anxiety in Children

separation anxiety in childrenDr. Ada: I have a 4, soon to be 5-year-old, the oldest of 3 kids, who has been going to the same preschool for 3 years (since he was 2). EVERY SINGLE MORNING, without fail, no matter who takes him to school, no matter how early or late we get there, he cries for 10 minutes after we leave.

We have tried every trick we can think of, including ignoring his mild hysterics when we go.

Any hope I had that he would outgrow this behavior has vanished. Any advice?

I do not know what arrangements you have for your other two kids, but it seems that the boy was not ready to separate from you at age two; he needed more time with you to establish a secure sense of attachment to you.

In addition, when his younger two siblings arrived, he was probably jealous of the attention you gave to them. So try to carve out some special time to spend with him (just the two of you) to establish a stronger and more secure sense of attachment (you can call it love) between you and your first born son.

This is important for his future relationships as an adult, because a child’s feelings in the early preschool years form a template for his feelings later in life.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Physically Active Boy Going to Kindergarten

Physically Active BoyDr. Ada: My two sons, 5 and 3½, are both very physical, energetic, into fighting play, and they have a hard time sitting still, keeping their hands to themselves, etc.

My 5-year-old is going to kindergarten this year and I am worried that he is not going to respond well to the more structured environment of elementary school. What advice can you offer?

I have seen very active and physical preschoolers who learn to settle down in a structured kindergarten environment, when there is a good experienced teacher in charge. Maintain close communication with your son’s teacher, and make sure the boy has many opportunities to engage in gross motor activity at home to release his excessive energy. You may also discuss your concern with your son’s pediatrician, who is the one to determine if the child’s behavior requires any medication

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Ask Dr. Ada – Outdated Preschool Teacher

Outdated Preschool TeacherDr. Ada: My 4-year-old son knows how to read easy picture books and likes to take one of his books to preschool to read to his friends. His teacher told me I should discourage him from doing that because it’s important for him to participate in the physical, art and music activities which the preschool provides and leave academics for grade school.

What should I do?

This teacher seems to have a dated attitude.

Years ago it was assumed that preschool children were too young to develop literacy skills, and that early reading development could be harmful and therefore should be left for school. However, our latest understanding is that most children begin to acquire literacy skills in their preschool years and that it is recommended to stimulate and encourage that development from an early age.

Explain to your child’s teacher that your son gains much social and emotional confidence from sharing his reading ability with his friends, and that this can also encourage their development. Alternatively, you could transfer your child to a more academically oriented program.

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Ask Dr. Ada – 4 Year Old Wants to Marry Mother

4 Year Old Wants to Marry MotherDr. Ada: My 4-year-old son wants to sleep with me, bugging me night after night, and saying that he will marry me.

Do I need to worry?

There is nothing to worry about this early childhood boyish wish; it is quite common.

Hug your son and gently tell him that you love him but you also love his father, for a longer time than him (from before he was even born) and that’s why you have married him, and why you sleep with him.

Explain to your son firmly that sons cannot marry their mothers and that in any case, once he becomes an adult he will find the right bride to marry and sleep with her.

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Ask Dr. Ada – 6 Year Old Too Competitive

6 year old too competitiveDr. Ada: My 6-year-old daughter is very competitive with my 5-year-old son. She always wants to be first, and he is very gentle and always gives in to her.

How should I handle this situation?

Find out from your daughter’s teacher how she is doing at school. If she has no difficulty with her friends at school, and her competitive spirit is held in check over there, this indicates she just needs firmer discipline at home.

Explain to your daughter it is not fair to always take advantage of her brother’s goodness; and that she is a good girl and therefore must be good to others. In addition, encourage your son to be more assertive and learn to stand up for his rights, and not always give in to his sister.

Play being a judge between the two (whose orders must be followed) and help the children develop better social skills.

However, if you learn that your daughter’s behavior in school is also problematic, I would recommend some counseling.

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