Pay attention to your kids
I feel like children surround my life. When you turn on the television, a lot of shows deal with families and their children. "Kate Plus 8," "19 Kids and Counting" and my all-time, trashtastic favorite, "Teen Mom," are some of the shows that fill my nights. None of these shows portray the "normal" nuclear family, which is great because a lot of kids today are not growing up with that. But what I am more interested in is how kids are being raised — how parents teach, play with and talk to them. As a floating preschool/after-school teacher for the past year at Campus Kids in New Brunswick, I deal with children daily. I've seen that a lot of times, their behavioral problems come from lack of parental attention or just sheer negligence to teach kids the difference between right and wrong.
The kids I deal with on a daily basis are ages 4 through 11. It's quite a sight I get to see everyday, and I learn a lot about how different they are from when I was their age. All day, I run around chasing after the little kids reminding them to wash their hands, flush the toilet and not hit their friends. Once 3 p.m. rolls around, the real chaos starts. The big kids arrive. They are hungry, roughhousing and looking for any excuse to not do their homework. There is something odd going on with the attitude in this whole generation of kids, and I am not the only one who believes so. I know younger teachers and after-school tutors in the area that all agree that something is up — and it needs to change.
On the show "Teen Mom," there are instances that make you angry or sad — not for the mothers, but for the poor 1-year-old babies. I'll hand it to one of them, she tries, but as for the other two with babies I say this: Look at your child! Don't let them pour Frappuccinos all over themselves, or don't let your baby hold a knife while you are too busy yelling at your boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/fiancé/ex-fiancé for doing absolutely nothing wrong. Sure, these are mothers who should not have had children at this time in the first place, but it scares me if this is how my generation is going to raise children.
Don't get me wrong; I love my job. It is just frustrating to see how many of these kids — both younger and older — are growing up. It is because none of the lessons they learn at school are reiterated at home. The little kids are a whole issue on their own. I had one kid who started at the end of the summer camp period, who seemed sweet at first, but once he called the head teacher a mother ****** in casual conversation, we knew something was wrong. For example, "Oh hey mother (blank) look at this!" He was pointing to a sand castle he built. Then we have the children who were never potty trained. They don't use toilet paper, don't flush, and often forget the importance of washing their hands. My favorite though, is when a child cried because you tell them no or their behavior is wrong. It's like they were taught that just because another kid asks them a question, it is okay to punch them in the stomach.
The problems the after-school kids face are something on a whole other level that I try everyday to help them with. It's hard when I think a lot of teachers today are not really getting it. I'm not saying this as fact, but I have heard through co-workers in the school system that many after-school programs have been cut because of the budget, and the students are no longer getting the help they need. The kids themselves have told me that a lot of times they read a story from a textbook in school, but are not allowed to bring it home to do their homework. They do not go to the board to go over math problems. They almost never have science homework, and a lot of them have trouble comprehending reading. To give the teachers credit, some of these students are just lazy. They forget their homework on purpose or act out for attention. But as long as they have your attention and support, they do their work well. The most hurtful thing they say to me is they think they can't do it because they are stupid. Then I have to explain the difference between stupid and lazy, but in the nicest way possible. At the end of the day, all 25 of them get their homework done. They are all really good kids who just need the right motivation. Nothing is more rewarding to me, and I really appreciate when they come back the next day, telling me how their test was easy because of something I showed them. As for my little ones, not a day goes by where they don't tackle me with hugs when I walk in, or treat me like I'm the most awesome person on the planet because I answered the door when lunch arrived on pizza day. Really, watching a 4-year-old throw his fist in the air victoriously screaming, "Yes, pizza day!" is the best. Just as future parents, teachers, aunts, uncles or what have you, please pay attention to your kids.
Megan DiGuilio is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in music. She is the former opinions editor for The Daily Targum. Her column, "Dirty Pop," runs on alternate Thursdays.