Help me take care of these kids when I feel ambivalent and lack resources and experience!
September 1, 2011 2:21 PM Subscribe
How can I amuse these variously-aged children who like to test boundaries? How should I handle things when I basically can't discipline them? How can I get in the right headspace to do this?
posted by Frowner to human relations (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I do some volunteer work which has turned into de facto childcare, about three or four hours a week, for three bright but very disruptive children. They're approximately four, six and eight; they're related to each other and live across the street from the project. They are very responsible in some ways - do a lot of chores at home that I didn't do at that age, for example - and very rambunctious in others, not hesitating to yell, use bad language and rummage through everything in the space. They're also little, and tend to drop crumbs on the floor, spill paint, etc. Their parents are friendly, but not around much - as far as I can tell they're working a lot of hours at low-paying jobs just to get by.
I need to keep the kids occupied. Some of the time, I can work directly with them to manage what they're doing; other times, I need to do the actual volunteer work for which I'm in the space.
I don't have any real authority here - I can't kick them out, speaking sternly does no good, etc. My only hope is to build a rapport with them so that they'll tone things down a little. I like them and am happy when we have moments of rapport, but I am also frustrated and stressed by the need to manage them.
This is important - I'm white, middle class, introverted, nerdy. These kids are African-American, working class, extroverted, and have what read to me to as very permissive relationships with adults. I grew up in a very traditional, authoritarian setting, which had plenty of drawbacks - there are things about the kids' relationships with adults that I admire quite a lot. I don't know how to be the kind of adult these kids are accustomed to (I've actually seen them interacting with neighbors and family quite a lot, so I'm not just making this up). We've had a bunch of interactions where we misunderstand each other - ie, I can't tell when they're teasing, they can't tell when I'm teasing.
I plan to bring in stuff to do - things to color, puzzles, etc. What are some recommended internet resources for these that kids would actually like? I don't want to bring stuff that reeks of "educational". I could probably spend a little money on this, but I already spend a bunch of money on other volunteer stuff.
What how-to childcare resources would you recommend? I'd be especially interested in anything that addresses race and class in a practical way, or any suggestions from your experience.
How do I get into the right headspace? I tend to have this default fear when dealing with kids that's basically "Frowner is such a dorky, laughable, pathetic figure that not only can she never get kids to do anything, but she actually deserves to have kids laugh at her". I tend to play little movies in my head - the kind of movie where the teacher is a ridiculous, bumbling oppressor and the kids are awesome. Add white guilt - let's not kid ourselves here - and the whole thing is just a mess. Sometimes I dread going in to the project because it produces a lot of really strong flashbacky feelings about school and being bullied. I feel like I react to these kids like I did to my bullies, even though intellectually I recognize that they're just little girls - and bright little girls who clearly want adult attention.
tl;dr: fun stuff to do with age-disparate kids; suggestions for negotiating race and class