By Angela Banaszak
My life has been dedicated to caring for children; recently, a coworker said she just couldn’t do it anymore. I told her first of all, you must have a sense of humor (along with patience, love and the ability to be firm when you must). I have come across quite a few adults who expect a 5-year-old to act like an adult and simply have expectations that are above and beyond what any child is capable of.
I will never forget the Dennis the Menaces in my life. One particular boy I had in my after-school program when I worked for the YWCA 18 years ago is going to be the basis of my comedy routine when I decide to start doing stand-up. He always had the most menacing smile and there was a lot lurking behind it. He, in the course of one year, knocked over the school Christmas tree, attempted to climb out the bathroom window and sat in a snowbank refusing to move and while the State of New York Office of Children and Family Services was observing me decided he was going to throw the Hungry Hungry Hippos marbles all over the room. This is the short list.
How does an 18-year veteran respond to a child like this? Well, first you laugh. Because otherwise you will cry and then you have a nice long talk with Mom and Dad. Rule No. 1 is that children don’t like the thought of you talking to their parents. Nope, not at all! The very sight of a letter that is sealed with their parents' name on it will trigger an attack of guilty conscience like you have never seen before. Rule No. 2 is don’t be afraid to be firm but kind. Yelling will not help and time out will not help. But sitting down and talking to them will, as most of the time they simply want your attention. And, trust me, if that’s the case ... where there is a will there is a way.
It’s not an easy job and I could write a 1,000-page book probably in the course of one night. Child care is a hard work and discipline in by far the hardest thing you will ever have do. I consider it a never-ending job as children are growing and they need constant guidance, love and support. Every 5-year-old is at a different developmental stage as well. Some are fiercely independent, some will not leave your side. You must learn to be flexible because your plans are not always going to be what they would like to do.
I learned that early on. There I was, on an early dismissal day alone for seven hours with 12 young children. I thought, well what a great day to take them sledding and have hot chocolate. After I got them all bundled up in their snowsuits – a challenge in itself – one little girl decided she simply didn’t want to go sledding while all the other children did. So what did I do? I wanted to cry, but I remembered my golden rule: Laugh at all times. I knew she loved teddy bears and, bing, it came to me in the nick of time. I told her that she could make a teddy bear in the snow and a smile instantly came to her face and off we went.
So if you are thinking of career in in child care remember: Be kind, be flexible and, above all, laugh. Maybe one day I will see you in a comedy club.
Angela Banaszak of Elma has worked in child care for 32 years and currently works for the West Seneca School District and a professional pet-sitting company.