19 SEPTEMBER 2008
Both child care workers and abusive parents share the dilemma of being overstressed, undersupported, and yet held personally accountable for their actions, despite the fact that many of these actions are properties of the systems they function in. Just as redistributing power in the family system, by family therapy, has proved effective, so empowering child care workers and the children they care for will dramatically lessen the tensions and strains which are properties of the social system and will, at long last, provide social structures that are supportive and conducive to providing quality child care.
Inherently, our work is demanding, taxing, and draining under the best of circumstances. However, we rarelv work under the best of circumstances: in fact, rather than working in social systems designed to support our work, we typically work in circumstances that add to an already difficult task by (1) evoking an adversary relationship with the children we care for, and (2) burdening us with the double bind of incompatible clinical and child-rearing expectations.
The solution to both of these problems is a democratization of programs by empowering both child care workers and the children themselves. Just as programs will need to be restructured so as to promote competency and a community orientation, so they will have to be restructured in order to empower those who must work, live, and solve their problems together, namely children and their care givers.
It is high time that we ask ourselves, "If
what we are doing for children is so good for them, why do they fight us
so much?" Typically, we answer that question with "because they don't
know what is good for them," or "they are crazy." However, clearly we
have reached the limits to which we can coerce, intimidate, threaten, or
outright bully children into compliance. Such techniques have failed in
the past and more of the same will most likely only be counterproductive
and perpetuate the "cops and robbers" game we are trapped into playing.
A better alternative is to motivate children to want to do what they
need to do. Redirecting our energies to promoting normal growth and
development is more likely to be productive. All of us want to become
more competent in at least some areas, and this is a good vehicle for
establishing cooperative relationships with children. In promoting
competence, we don't address "sore spots," stigmatize, or focus on
threatening topics. The problem areas are better dealt with in private
with a therapist. Once the adversary nature of the relationship is
changed, children and workers can become partners and solve the many
vexing problems and dilemmas they share in a task-oriented,
give-and-take manner which very importantly is rich in opportunities to
teach experientially such competencies as assertion, negotiation,
compromise, and cooperation.
Durkin, R. (1990). Competency, relevance and
empowerment: A case for the restructuring of children's programs. In
Anglin, J.P.; Denholm, C.J.; Ferguson, R.V. and Pence, A.R. (Eds.).
Perspectives in Professional Child and Youth Care. New York/London.
Haworth Press. pp. 12-13.