When I was 12, I started working as an assistant day care worker at my synagogue. A few weeks after I had started, the other worker left and I was asked to fill her place. I gladly accepted the position, though I felt a little apprehensive to take full responsibility for eight or nine children.
A New Tool:
There were some kids who cried at the beginning of the day and one or two who isolated themselves from the group or acted out. Some just needed to be held and sung to, while others needed distraction and were fine as soon as Mom and Dad were out of sight. Through trial and error, I learned to work through each situation and to use each child's temperament to my advantage.
There was one kid who would always act-out and separate himself from the others. I put myself in his shoes and realized that, because he was a year or two older, he just felt that he didn’t belong with the ‘little kids’. I began giving him responsibilities. When we walked to the playground, he led the line, while I followed at the back. He was in charge of making sure the little ones were playing safely. He took his responsibilities very seriously because they separated him from the others by placing him in the position of the responsible 'big kid.' Because he was older, the other kids looked up to him and listened to him and followed his example.
When I was in high school, I babysat for this adorable little girl. Like most two-year-olds, she could be quite stubborn. She was particularly unfond of cleaning up after play time.
I tried negotiating with her, offering her rewards and cleaning up without her, all to no avail. Then, I had an idea. I asked her parents if I could bring my eight-year-old brother the next time I babysat. Eric was ready and willing to use his powers as a 'big kid' to help me in my work. Whenever it was time to clean up, I would signal to him and he would start to clean and the little girl would jump right in to help him. I was releived that this trick worked and proud of my little brother. I was glad to have a tool which made clean-up time enjoyable for the little girl. This made me realise that, through years of working with children, I had gained an informal education in childhood psychology and development.