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Diane Flynn Keith...

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Q & A & A

I recently came across a Q & A in an article titled “House Calls,” published in Grand Rapids Family magazine. It’s by famed pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton and I think it is syndicated in many parenting magazines. Brazelton’s answer to a question posed by a reader is irrational on many levels to my way of thinking — but, it represents the pabulum that passes for food-for-thought on how best to solve the social problems that are leading to institutionalizing little kids.

Read the Q & A from that column pasted below. You’ll see that the person who wrote to Brazelton suggested that parents should get their priorities straight (tighten their belts, etc.) in order to avoid putting their kids in day care.

The Brazelton response is that most day care isn’t in the child’s best interests — but QUALITY childcare has both parents’ and children’s best interests at heart. (Notice he doesn’t define “quality” childcare. This is the new buzz phrase — loaded with warm fuzzy implications meaning different things to different people and an implied promise of perfection.)

Brazelton accuses the questioner of ASSUMING that everyone has a choice when it comes to daycare. He points out that many children are being raised by single parents (as if, in most cases, that wasn’t a choice).

He comments on the poverty level in the U.S. as a contributor to the need for childcare. He says he talks to thousands of families and hears that most have seen a decline in their standard of living — even for those with two incomes. Brazelton says the problem can’t be fixed with stricter budgeting or just foregoing the SUV and cell phone. His answer is that those of us who care, should come together to help provide quality childcare and education for all kids. Looks like Brazelton is another mouthpiece for indoctrinating parents to send their children to preschool.

I’m beginning to get a little worried that people (including “experts” like Brazelton) think kids are resilient and as long as they are relatively safe, fed, and learning something — they’ll be fine. As a society we have such LOW STANDARDS when it comes to the best environment for our kids. Public preschool is the new remedy for societal ills — unfortunately, the contraindications of this prescription will be toxic to toddlers.

Diane Keith

As published in Grand Rapids Family, July 2005

House Calls

By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.

Day Care Isn’t Always A Choice

Finding Balance Between Economic Security and Family Needs is a Tough Task

Q: In a recent column, you mentioned that quality child care should be a “national priority.” I want to cry every time I hear that. Our “national priority” should be teaching families how to manage financially on one income and to underscore that parents are not so easily replaced by caregivers. We live in an age of such materialism that people assume things like a second car, cable TV and cell phones are necessities. I recognize that there are people who are struggling. But even among those folks, there are parents who make their kids a priority and make it work so that one parent is always home. Please stop espousing the need for day care! Day care does not put the kids’ best interests at heart. ~ H.W., Livermore, CA

A: We certainly agree with you that, sadly, most day care in our country does not serve children’s best interests. But we are advocating for quality child care, the kind that does serve the best interests of children and their parents.

Some people may not know about the importance of high-quality child care and why many families must resort to whatever day care they can find and afford.

You speak of it as if it were a free choice for families. It isn’t for most. Some people may assume that there are two parents for every family, but the truth is that many children today are being raised in families that have only one.

Many folks are also not fully aware of the extent of poverty in our great country. We have had the opportunity, though, to observe and to listen to decent, hardworking families from all over our land for many years, and we have a different view.

Paychecks are shrinking in many neighborhoods. Buying power is declining. Often both parents (when there are two) must work — sometimes at more than one job — in order to maintain a declining standard of living.

When it’s possible, we are in favor of downsizing and of making family time a priority over time for making money and spending it. Certainly there are people who complain about money who don’t know how to tighten their belts — but there are many Americans whose belts have already been tightened as far as they can go.

You are right that day care for more than two-thirds of working families is not serving their children’s interests. As a result, we are raising a generation of children who aren’t ready for school and won’t be capable of taking on the responsibilities of citizenship.

We as a nation we can’t afford to abandon these children, for they are our future. We must find the generosity, kindness and backbone within ourselves to provide decent care for all of our nation’s youngsters.

You may find Juliet Schor’s book, “The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure” (Basic Book, 1992) a source of useful information on this topic.

2 comments to Q & A & A

  • Anonymous


    I have to admit that I have mixed feelings regarding this subject. My husband and I have two children, a 4-year-old boy and a 9-month-old girl. We want the best for our children and have very limited resources to do so.

    Our son loves interacting with other children so we enrolled him in a local “co-op” preschool. The tuition was $90 a month for two days a week. That was a very reasonable price for us. This was not what it seemed to be. There were two mandatory fundraisers in which we had to raise at least $50; our son was not enrolled in time for the first one, but felt the full extent of their wrath for not participating in the second one. Since we did not participate, we were required to “donate” $50 to the school. We could not come up with the extra money so we were told that our son would not be able to take part in the end of the year presentation and would have to sit out when his class was practicing.

    It was at that moment that we removed him from that school.

    After that we tried many avenues to find him a place in a preschool. Our local public school system has a preschool program… but only for remedial children. My son could have been what they call a “mentor” only if his maturity level was well above that of a typical 4-year-old. Unfortunately, my son IS a typical 4-year-old.

    Then we tried to enroll him in Head Start. Even my husband’s income alone was to much for that one: your income has to be below $16,000 per year in order for you child to be accepted. We are too poor to be rich and too rich to be poor.

    Because of our experience, I feel that a public type preschool would be beneficial to a lot of parents. The majority of families out there have to have two incomes to survive so their children have to go to daycare. It would be awesome if the kids were learning instead of just playing.

    However, while I do agree with some kind of publicly subsidized preschool, I do not think that it should be mandatory. If you can stay with your children while they are young, you should be able to do so.

    Denise Montague | 8/31/2005 10:50:47 AM

  • Anonymous

    House Calls & Brazelton’s view on daycare

    Hi Diane,

    First of all I want to say how grateful I am for this website and for the support you provide to those of us who homeschool our preschoolers.

    I chose to forgo my income, tighten my belt and stay at home with my children. I think it was the best choice I could make, nothing can replace all the time I have shared with them. It’s truly priceless, but I also believe that even though we have made many financial sacrifices we still have it better than most.

    My husband is for one thing an engineer and has an above average income (100,000 +) yet we still struggle financially and have had to make many adjustments to make homeschooling happen. (We live in California.) So I can’t imagine what it would be for the average single mother to do this. Some women end up in divorce because they were victims of abusive husbands or are widowed and they may not be ready to start a new family and it is much harder to find a husband when children are involved.

    Also, many people have to work two jobs just to make ends meet, there is a huge number of poor in this country as recently brought to the naked eye by hurricane Katrina. There are people who even if they cut their cable and cell phones would not be able to afford rent without a double income. So, I think the priority should be in educating all people, having quality schools, providing trainning so that people could obtain better paying jobs and in the meantime provide quality daycare.

    I also think that those of us that stay home with our children should get some kind of monetary credit/tax break from the government.

    As it is today, daycare providers are among the lowest paid and have minimal training in child developement & psychology. The ratios are I think 1 provider for 7 or 8 children, I think it should be half of that. I think that family values is when you value all families and work to provide the opportunities necessary to elevate their standard of living, sadly this is not the case today.

    Truly yours,

    Katia Ugalde

    Katia Ugalde | 10/19/2005 9:12:08 PM

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