流轉的現代童年

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1995 / 4月

文‧李光真 圖‧薛繼光


時序入春,誰都不會忘記四月有個屬於媽媽和孩子們共同的假日。在這個叮囑社會多為「婦幼」付出關心的假日裡,我們剖析了現代婦女的一樁心事:陸續進入就業市場的現代母親,還能堅守家庭守護者的傳統角色嗎?母親外出工作的孩子們,又可能面臨怎樣的流轉童年?


今年就讀國小一年級的王美辰,是個安靜內向的小女孩。但她短短六年多的稚弱人生中,其實已幾經變動:三年幼稚園不說,她共計前後換過老、中、青三個年紀不等的保母,中間又在奶奶家寄養半年,還曾在托兒所待過一個月;目前她放學後由安親班老師照顧,直到晚上七點,夜幕低垂了,才跟著下班後匆匆趕來的媽媽,回自己家。

兩歲半的李偉揚,也曾一度滄桑。半年前,一向寵愛他的保母要去保險公司上班,於是他被媽媽轉送到托嬰中心,中間經過漫長一整月的哭鬧和晚上做惡夢。沒想到就在他剛開始適應時,托嬰中心突然宣布關門,偉揚只好又轉往另一個保母家。最近這位保母也透露「不想帶了」的意思,還是媽媽說盡好話才暫且留下,但能留多久呢?媽媽根本不敢多想。

孩子跟著大人轉?

美辰和偉揚並不是特例。放眼望去,大街小巷裡充斥著托嬰中心、托兒所、安親班,各縣市社會局培訓出來的保母更是供不應求。然而,這些替代的托育者,真能提供如母親般的安穩懷抱嗎?從許多孩子如走馬燈般流轉的現象看來,答案顯然不樂觀。

「每次演講,一定都有媽媽們問:『我是不是乾脆辭掉工作,專心回家帶孩子算了?』」著名的親子教育專家游乾桂看過太多母親的掙扎。

掙扎歸掙扎,但根據行政院主計處統計,全台灣地區家有未滿六歲子女的婦女,其勞動參與率近三年來一直呈穩定上升趨勢,目前已達百分之四十五.七三;換句話說,近兩百萬名學齡前兒童中,有不少孩子必須在親戚、保母、托嬰中心的照顧下成長;甚且三、四歲進了幼稚園後,下課後仍要到「別人家」去等媽媽來接。

零到六歲,是孩子人格的養成期,最需要安定的環境,但因媽媽上班而被託付出去的孩子,卻往往必須飽嘗分離、變動,與不斷適應之苦。

「現在是個高速變動的社會,每個人的意念都轉得很快:父母的工作會變,居住地點會變,甚至婚姻關係會變;同樣的情形也可能發生在那個『帶孩子』的人身上。大人一旦變動,孩子別無選擇,只能跟著變了」,目前正在研究兒童托育政策的台大社會系副教授馮燕感嘆,以前那種世代務農,世居當地,還有龐大家族互為奧援的安適時代,已經無處尋覓了。

「換人帶」的一千種理由

進一步分析,現代孩子的托育變動,除了搬家、出國、孩子大了上幼稚園等等客觀環境上的自然變動外,許多情況下,卻是家長——絕大部分是母親——的主觀選擇。譬如不滿意托育者「把孩子帶成這樣」,而堅持要另換一個「好一點的」,就是一個常見的理由。

何謂「好一點的」,有時全靠家長自由心證:有的是心疼自己孩子被托育者家中其他的大孩子「欺負」;有的是擔心孩子的發育似乎有點遲緩;知識分子型的母親,則有因為不滿意保母太少放故事及美語錄音帶給孩子聽,而決定另請高明的……。

「家長的要求,有時候真是保母想都沒想到的」,常過二十多年專職保母的台北市保母協會理事長蔣文蘭指出,還有些時候,保母稍微出點問題,家長就忙不迭地將孩子帶走,也讓保母備生挫折。

今年四歲半的陳萍,滿月後就被送到保母家。沒想到三個月大時,陳萍突然開始不明原因地拉肚子,情況相當嚴重。雖然保母盡心地照顧陳萍,然而事情傳到老人家耳裡,還是被奶奶以「這麼粗心,奶嘴都沒好好消毒」為理由而將孩子帶回。

對於這點,媽媽們其實也同樣惶惑:「要將孩子留在一個不怎麼令人滿意的托育環境中,還是冒險換一個環境試試?怎麼樣才對孩子最好?有誰能告訴我們?」有一雙稚齡子女,也曾為兒子幾經「轉手」傷透腦筋的中國時報記者林照真質疑。

家長炒保母魷魚的固然不少,另一方面,保母狠下心來「不帶了」的情形,也層出不窮。

大人不投緣,孩子遭殃

深知保母生涯甘苦的蔣文蘭解釋,保母工作是一份感情工作,維繫感情的關鍵,其實繫在家長身上。然而有些家長不尊重保母的作息,常常拖延到很晚才來接孩子;還有些家長太小氣,該調薪和發年終獎金時都毫無表示,默不吭聲,「如果保母帶滿一年後說不要帶了,可能就是在暗示家長『該調薪嘍』!」蔣文蘭透露。

除了拖延型、小氣型外,有些家長太會計較,寒暑假幼稚園放假時,孩子被送回鄉下阿媽家,就彷彿理所當然的不付錢,讓保母「被迫失業」兩、三個月;有些家長則太囉唆,不斷挑剔,甚至三不五時闖來「察看」一下。凡此種種,都會讓保母覺得「氣在心裡口難開」、「帶得沒意思」,一旦有了更好的工作機會,她們難免選擇放棄帶孩子。

才剛結束一家托嬰中心的傅文慧,則有另一番的苦衷。多年不孕的她,一直極愛小孩,半年前,她經由一位托嬰家長的介紹,領養了一個男孩,沒想到這孩子體弱多病,常被其他孩子傳染感冒,或是被吵到受驚嚇。在先生多次嚴重抗議後,為了避免家庭危機,她只好冒著被家長大罵「這麼沒有職業道德」的罪名,收手不做了。

「想到帶了好久的十來個孩子馬上要流散四方,我比誰都難過」,傅文慧說:「但我現在終於知道,為什麼自己有孩子的保母同業,只要發現托來的孩子稍微難帶點,會影響到家庭,就急著推辭。」

托育變動,大人的理由樣樣聽起來合情合理,可憐事件中的小小主角,卻難有置喙餘地;在新環境中會有什麼遭遇,也是他們稚弱的人生經驗所無從想像的。

「我要以前的媽媽!」

根據蔣文蘭觀察,「抗拒」,「畏縮」和「攻擊」,是一個孩子面臨新環境時的最普遍反應;而這些反應說穿了,都根源於深深的不安全感。

對保母來說,每次接手一個新孩子,就免不了要面對一陣動盪期,有些孩子一進新保母家的巷子就開始驚惶哭鬧,不是緊箍著媽媽的脖子不放,就是對新保母拳打腳踢,嘴裡還會喊著「我討厭你,我不要去你們家!」。

「有些孩子一連好幾天都抽噎著,一進門就躲進角落裡,還把奶嘴當護身符一樣拚命吸吮著;有的則一進門就來勢洶洶,推別的孩子,抓別的孩子,好像要先警告別人『我不是好惹的』!」蔣文蘭提起來是又好氣又好笑。

或許是因為大一點的孩子才會顯露他們的不安吧,有些家長以為在孩子未滿七、八個月、還不會「認人」前更換托育者,應該沒什麼關係;不過友緣基金會主任黃倫芬卻認為,小嬰兒雖然拙於表達,但他們的感覺其實十分敏銳。

國外則有研究顯示,剛出生三天的嬰兒,就可以認出不同的說話聲音,還會顯現出對母親(或一直照顧他的人)的聲音和氣味的偏愛。這時若發生托育變動,即使孩子太小,還不懂得驚慌害怕,但也就無從建立對外在世界的信賴感。

當然,一個孩子一個性格,有些孩子歷經變動,卻總能在短時間內適應新環境,有些孩子的過程卻特別崎嶇艱辛。

孩子也累,大人也累!

在保險經紀公司上班的謝麗惠,曾幫弟弟帶過孩子。這個姪女在三歲前就換過三、四個保母,最後沒辦法了,送來給姑姑帶。但當時謝麗惠的孩子也還小,中午孩子放學回來後,她又得把姪女轉給自己媽媽帶。

照理說,姑姑奶奶都是至親,小女孩應該容易適應才對,無奈這個從小已被轉來換去弄得安全感盡失的孩子,每天早上從媽媽手上換到姑姑手上就要大哭一頓,好不容易一個上午和姑姑親起來了,中午從姑姑手上換到奶奶手上又要大哭一頓;晚上媽媽來接,居然又黏著奶奶不放,最後總要以大哭大鬧收尾。

「她的心理我們都知道——她就是怕眼前這個照顧者一轉身就會消失不見,像以前那些保母一樣」,謝麗惠也很心疼,但像這樣「一天哭三次,一次一個鐘頭,整整持續半年」的哭法,至今仍令她不可思議。所幸後來終於找到一個好保母,小女孩才逐漸安定下來。

「托育中途換手,實在是孩子也累,大人也累」,謝麗惠以自己的姪女為例子,每個人各有一套帶孩子的方式,要接手別人帶過的孩子並非易事。可惜大人往往輕忽這點,結果在經過一兩次不以為意的變動後,竟把無辜孩子推向了「不斷換保母」的惡性循環中。

適時支援,莫留傷口

推究起來,流轉的童年,會對孩子一生留下什麼影響嗎?

這個答案,變數太多,會隨孩子的個性、變動的次數、和前後托育者的關係,以及和自己父母的親密程度等等因素而不同。

幸而,大體說來,「孩子是很現實的,是標準的『活在今天的』,何況他們了解必須順應大人的安排才能活得下去。只要妥善安排,好好溝通,大部分的孩子終會適應新環境的」,黃倫芬指出。

再說,一次積極成功的變動過程,說不定能讓孩子了解到,原來外面的世界也沒有那麼可怕,孩子會更篤定,更有自信。這未嘗不是意外收穫。

然而黃倫芬也指出,儘管多數孩子都能找出調適之道,但仍有少數孩子,會留下較難抹去的傷痕;甚至是等上了幼稚園或小學,在人際關係或學習上出現障礙,幾經探究,才追溯出來的。

陳萍就是一個過程較坎坷的例子。幾度在保母和安親班間轉換的她,半年前由於妹妹出生,不得不再次轉移陣地,跟著妹妹去新保母家。但或許是和新保母實在不投緣,一向溫順的她,這次卻開始發拗,哭鬧、尖叫、劇烈地眨眼睛,裝出怪聲怪調,甚至動手勒別人脖子……。媽媽雖然隱隱覺得怪異,但在手忙腳亂照顧新生兒的壓力下,氣急時還是忍不住一陣打罵。

「那個時候實在太忽略她了」,在雜誌界任職的媽媽如今回憶,仍不免遺憾。幸而一個月後陳萍換回去早先第三任的保母家,又進了一家基督教會辦的幼稚園。在老師的提醒下,媽媽開始正視陳萍的問題,花下很多心力企圖彌補:「現在只要萍萍想跟我說話,我一定『放下一切』聽她說;而且星期假日儘量帶她出去玩。」

如今陳萍雖然還有點畏縮不好動,但情況已在明顯好轉中。「在六歲人格定型以前,一切都來得及!」老師的話,天天在媽媽心中響著、激勵著。

「花蝴蝶」世代來臨?

從兒童發展心理學來看,黃倫芬指出,「一對一的依附關係」,是人生早期最重要的感情經驗,也是孩子建立對人生的信賴感和安全感的最重要階段;這個階段若是不能滿足或有缺憾,就無法順利建立下一階段的、「一對多」的正常同儕關係。現在「花蝴蝶式」的孩子不時可見,或許正是一個警訊。

「這些孩子儘管已經上學,照理說早過了依附期,然而由於他們缺乏安全感,還一味渴求著大人的關愛,因此每到一個新環境,他們就像花蝴蝶一樣穿梭著,努力討好每一個大人,對於同年齡的孩子反倒沒有興趣,沒有辦法發展良好的同儕關係」,黃倫芬解釋。

「花蝴蝶」式的孩子至少維持著伶俐乖巧的表象,至於流轉傷痕更粗礪些的,則可能一生擺脫不掉乖戾、冷漠或孤僻畏縮的性格。近年由於青少年反社會行為的快速增加,世界各國都開始探討原因,童年的早期經驗,已被確認對人生有著極關鍵的影響。「托育問題,再怎麼小心都不為過」,黃倫芬提醒。

當然,六歲以後,孩子年歲漸長,獨立性增加,適應變動的能力也增加;而且對絕大部分的正常孩子而言,依附關係逐漸被同儕關係取代,這時再換安親班之類的托育機構,就不是那麼困擾了。

只是,和大人一樣,「現代孩子要習慣和舊朋友說再見,要習慣在短時間內結交新朋友,也要習慣隨時準備再變動」,黃倫芬喟嘆。

推遠來看,有著流轉童年的這一代孩子,二十年後又會構成怎樣的世代?這樣的疑問,在孩子惶惑的眼神中,在父母的焦慮中,不斷提出,卻彷彿無解……。

〔圖片說明〕

P.75

「到底誰來照顧我?」面臨托育變動時,小小的孩子,可也會興起「不知何去何從」的感嘆嗎?

P.76

兩歲多的孩子,似乎可以脫離保母的呵護,但真要上幼稚園又嫌太小。街坊林立的托嬰中心和托兒所,就成了過渡性選擇。

P.77

大清早,身為職業婦女的媽媽三兩下梳洗完畢,就抱起孩子往保母家奔去。這時襁褓中的寶貝還沒睜眼呢。

P.78

為了解決棘手的托育問題,台北市政府社會局正積極培訓專業保母,預計今年可培養七百多名。圖為信誼基金會開辦的保母訓練班一景。

P.79

請個菲傭帶孩子,可以讓孩子在自己家裡安心長大;不過菲傭的習性、語言和流動率等變數,還是要多加考慮。

P.80

流轉的童年會帶給孩子什麼樣的影響?這是許多父母心頭的疑問。

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近期文章

EN

Traumatic Times for Taiwan's Toddlers

Laura Li /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Robert Taylor

Spring is with us again, and no one will have forgotten that April brings a special day when we give our concern to mothers and young children. At this time, we look into a subject which is a great worry to many women today: as more and more mothers enter the job market, can they still maintain their traditional homemaking role? And what kind of unsettled childhood may lie in store for the children of working mothers?


Wang Mei-chen, now in her first year of elementary school, is a quiet, introverted little girl. But in fact in the six short years of her young life to date, she has seen many changes: as well as her three years at kindergarten, she has been looked after by three different nannies, old, middle-aged and young, and between times lived six months with her grandmother and spent a month going to a daycare center after kindergarten. At present, after school each day she stays with a childminder until seven in the evening, well after dark, when her mother hurries over after work to take her home.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Li Wei-yang has also been through many changes. Six months ago, the nanny who had always lavished him with affection went to work for an insurance company, and Wei-yang's mother started taking him to a daycare center. After a whole month of crying and nightmares he had finally begun to get used to the new place when the center suddenly announced that it was closing, and Wei-yang had to start going to another childminder's home. Just recently this latest nanny also let it be known that she no longer wished to look after him. With much begging and pleading Wei-yang's mother persuaded her to keep him on for the time being, but for how long? Wei-yang's mother hardly dares think about it.

Children at the mercy of adults?

Mei-chen and Wei-yang are by no means isolated cases. Looking around us, the streets and alleys are full of daycare centers and creches, and the number of childminders trained by the bureaux of social affairs of city and county governments around the island falls far short of the demand. But can these substitute carers really provide the same secure, stable childhood environment as the mother herself? Judging from the way many children spend their early years being passed from hand to hand like the baton in a relay race, the answer evidently does not inspire optimism.

"At my lectures there are always mothers who ask: 'Would it be better if I just quit my job altogether and stayed home to concentrate on looking after my child?'" says well-known child psychology and education specialist You Chien-kwei, who has seen countless mothers wrestle with this dilemma.

But dilemma or no, according to figures from the Executive Yuan's Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, the proportion of women in Taiwan with children under six who go out to work has been growing steadily for the last three years, and currently stands at 45.73%. In other words, among the almost two million children below school age, there are many who have to grow up being looked after by relatives, childminders or daycare centers, and even after they start going to kindergarten at the age of three or four, many still have to go to "other people's homes" afterwards to wait for their mothers to pick them up.

The years from birth to age six are the most formative for children's characters, and are the time when they most need a stable environment. But children who are placed in others' care while their mothers work often have to cope with separation, changes of carer and constant readjustment.

"Society today is a place of rapid change. Everyone's ideas are changing fast: parents may change their jobs, their homes or even their spouses, and similar changes may affect the childminders. When adults' circumstances change, children have no choice but to change with them." Feng Yen, an associate professor at Taiwan University's sociology department who is currently researching Taiwan's child daycare policies, laments that the stability of agricultural society, in which people did not move away from their home locality and help was always available from the extended family, is gone without trace.

1001 reasons for finding new carers

On closer examination, we find that many of the changes in today's children's care arrangements--apart from those prompted by changes in their external environment such as moving house, emigration or the child reaching kindergarten age--are the result of subjective choices by their parents--in the vast majority of cases the mother. For instance, dissatisfaction with the way the carer is influencing the child's behavior is a frequently-cited reason for wanting to change to a "better" one.

As for what is "better," the yardstick is sometimes entirely in the minds of the parents. Some are distressed that their child is being "bullied" by the older children at the childminder's home; some worry that their child seems to be developing rather slowly; more intellectual mothers are sometimes unhappy that the carer doesn't play enough tapes of stories or English for their children to hear, and so decide to look for someone more highbrow. . . .

"Sometimes parents demand things which the carer would never have dreamed of," says Chiang Wen-lan, president of Taipei City Nannies' Association, who has more than 20 years' experience as a full-time childminder. She notes that in other cases, at the first sign of any slight problems with the nanny, parents rush to take their children away, which is very frustrating for the carer.

When Chen Ping, now four-and-a-half, was a month old, she started going to a nanny. But when she was three months old, for no apparent reason Chen Ping came down with severe diarrhea. Although the nanny did her very best to take care of her, when Chen Ping's grandmother heard of the situation she took the child away, accusing the nanny of being "too lazy to sterilize the bottle teat properly."

In fact, this is a source of anxiety for mothers too. "Should you leave your child in a care situation which is less than ideal, or should you take the risk of changing? What's best for the child? Can anyone tell us?" asks Lin Chao-chen, a China Times reporter whose two young children have "changed hands" several times, causing her a great deal of worry.

As well as the many cases of parents giving a nanny her marching orders, nannies themselves frequently decide to stop looking after a child.

If the adults don't hit it off, the child suffers

Chiang Wen-lan, who knows the joys and frustrations of a nanny's life as well as anyone, explains that looking after children requires an emotional commitment, and that in fact the key to such a commitment is in the hands of the parents. But some parents don't respect the nanny's right to her own time, and often do not turn up to collect their children until very late, while others are too stingy and never think to give the nanny a raise or a New Year's bonus. "If after a year a nanny says she no longer wishes to look after a child, it may be a hint to the parents that it's 'time for a raise'!" reveals Chiang Wen-lan.

Apart from the latecomers and the pennypinchers, some parents are also too petty: during winter and summer vacations, when the kindergartens are closed, they send their children to their grandmothers' in the countryside, and take it for granted that they needn't pay the nanny for that period, putting her into "enforced unemployment" for two or three months of the year. Others are too carping, constantly criticizing, or even popping in all the time to "check up" on the nanny. All these attitudes create resentment, and make nannies feel that looking after children is unrewarding. So it is hardly surprising that when given the chance of a better job, many choose to give up minding children.

Fu Wen-hui, who has just closed her creche, has a different tale of woe. She has always loved children, and after many years trying unsuccessfully to have one of her own, six months ago she adopted a baby boy introduced by the parents of one of her charges. But the child is weak and sickly, and often caught colds from the other children, or was frightened by their noise. After many strong protests from her husband, to avert a crisis in their marriage she saw no choice but to brave parents' accusations that she had "no sense of professional duty" and close down her creche.

"When I think that the ten or so children I've been looking after for so long are being split up, I'm unhappier than anyone," says Fu Wen-hui, "but now I finally understand why other nannies with children of their own are in such a hurry to be rid of children if they find they're difficult to handle, for fear that their own family will be affected."

Adults' reasons for switching childminders all sound valid and reasonable, but unfortunately the little characters around which these decisions revolve rarely get the chance to voice their opinions. And what may become of them in their new environment is beyond their powers to imagine, given their short experience of life.

"I want my old mummy!"

In Chiang Wen-lan's experience, "refusal," "withdrawal" or "attack" are children's most common reactions to a new environment, and basically all these reactions are rooted in a deep sense of insecurity.

For childminders, the arrival of a new child heralds an unsettled period. Some children start crying and struggling as soon as they enter the street where their new creche is, clinging tightly around their mothers' necks or kicking or punching at the new nanny, or even shouting things like "I hate you, I don't want to stay with you!"

"Some children will keep on sobbing for days on end, and as soon as they come in they hide in a corner and suck their pacifiers as if their lives depended on it. Others get aggressive as soon as they come in, and push or grab hold of other children as if to warn them 'Don't mess with me'!" says Chiang Wen-lan with a mixture of frustration and amusement.

Perhaps because children do not show their insecurity until they are slightly older, some parents think that as long as they are below seven or eight months old and do not yet "recognize people," it shouldn't matter if they change carers. But Huang Lun-fen, director of the You Yuan Foundation, believes that although small babies cannot express themselves, their perceptions are very acute.

Overseas research reveals that even a three-day-old infant can distinguish different voices and shows a preference for the voice and scent of its own mother (or the person who habitually looks after it). Even though the baby is not old enough to show alarm or fear, a change of carers at this time will prevent it establishing a sense of trust in those around it.

Tiring for both children and adults!

Of course, each child has its own personality, and some children who have experienced numerous changes have been able to adapt very quickly to their new surroundings each time. But for others it is a very difficult process.

Hsieh Li-hui, who works for a firm of insurance brokers, looked after her brother's daughter for a time. Her niece had changed nannies three or four times before she was three, and in the end when no new nanny could be found she was farmed out to her aunt. But at that time Hsieh Li-hui's own children were still small, and after they came back from school at midday she had to give her niece to her own mother to look after.

As the child's aunt and grandmother are both her close relatives, one might think she should not have had any trouble getting used to being with them. But after being passed from one carer to another ever since she was a baby, Hsieh Li-hui's niece had lost all sense of security. Every morning when her mother delivered her she would cry for a long time, and then after taking all morning to get settled with her aunt, when she was turned over to her grandmother at lunchtime she would cry again. But in the evening when her mother came to fetch her, she would cling to her grandmother and things would end in tears and another struggle.

"We all understood how she felt--she was afraid the person looking after her at the moment would disappear just like those nannies before." Hsieh Li-hui was very distressed by the situation too, but she still finds it incredible that her niece could cry three times a day, an hour each time, for a whole six months. Luckily, in the end a good nanny was found for the girl and she has gradually settled down.

"Changing carers is hard on the child and on the adults too," says Hsieh Li-hui. In her niece's case, each of the adults involved had their own way of bringing up children, and it was hard to take on a child who had been looked after by someone else. But unfortunately adults often overlook this point, and after one or two changes which they think nothing of, the innocent child is pushed into a vicious circle of constantly changing carers.

A stitch in time saves nine

But how will this kind of unsettled early childhood affect a child later in life?

The answer to this question depends on a host of variables, for it is affected by many factors including the child's personality, the number of changes, the child's relationship with the old and new carers, how close the child is to its own parents, and so on.

Fortunately, says Huang Lun-fen, "most children are very practically oriented, and really do 'live only for today.' After all, they know they have to fit in with adults' arrangements in order to survive. With the right planning and good communication, most children will adapt to their new surroundings in the end."

Furthermore, a positive, successful changeover may even bring the child to the understanding that the outside world is not so frightful after all, and make it more relaxed and self-confident. Thus the change can even turn out to be an unexpected benefit.

However, Huang Lun-fen also warns that although most children can find ways to adjust, a minority will still be left with scars which are harder to erase. Some may even have learning difficulties, or difficulties interacting with others, which do not emerge until they are at kindergarten or elementary school, and the causes of which can then only be traced with great difficulty.

Chen Ping is one of these more difficult cases. After being passed around several times between different nannies and day-care centers, six months ago the birth of her little sister meant she had to start again with a new childminder along with her sister. But perhaps because she really didn't hit it off with the new nanny, this time this previously amenable girl became disobedient and would cry, scream, blink continuously, make strange sounds and even put her hands around people's necks to strangle them. Although her mother had the feeling that things were not right, under the pressure of looking after her new-born baby, she would sometimes let her anger get the better of her and smack or scold Chen Ping.

"At that time I really didn't give her enough attention," says Chen Ping's mother, who works for a magazine, looking back with lasting regret. Fortunately, a month later Chen Ping was able to go back to her previous third nanny, and begin attending a church-run kindergarten. After the kindergarten teacher drew Chen Ping's mother's attention to her daughter's problems, she began to take them seriously and spent a great deal of time and effort trying to make amends: "Now whenever Chen Ping wants to talk to me I will always 'drop everything' to listen to her, and I do my best to take her out somewhere every weekend."

Today, although Chen Ping is still rather withdrawn and not very lively, things are distinctly improving. The teacher's encouraging words that "There's still time to put everything right before her character becomes fixed at age six!" echo in Chen Ping's mother's mind every day.

The age of the butterfly?

From the perspective of developmental psychology, Huang Lun-fen notes, a "one-to-one dependency" is the most important emotional experience of a person's early life and is the most important step in children's establishing a sense of trust and security. If this need cannot be met or is met only incompletely, children will not be able to successfully establish normal one-to-many relationships with their peers. Perhaps the appearance nowadays of many "butterfly" children is a warning sign.

Huang Lun-fen explains: "These children are already going to school, and should normally have passed through their 'dependent' phase. But because they lack a sense of security, they still long for adults' care and attention. So each time they find themselves in a new environment they flit back and forth like butterflies, trying hard to ingratiate themselves with all the adults by turns, while ignoring children of their own age. They are unable to develop good peer relationships."

"Butterfly" children at least maintain an appearance of being bright and well-behaved. But those children who bear even deeper wounds from an unsettled early life may be left with an eccentric, coldly distant, unsociable or withdrawn character all their lives. The reasons behind the rapid increase in antisocial behavior by young people are becoming a focus of enquiry in countries around the world, and the experiences of early childhood have been confirmed as having an enormous influence throughout a person's life. "One can never be too careful about child care," Huang Lun-fen reminds us.

Of course, after a child reaches six it grows more independent and its ability to adapt to change also increases. Furthermore, for the vast majority of normal children, their dependency relationship is gradually replaced by peer relationships, and a change of childminders at this point will not create such great difficulties.

But just like adults, "today's children need to get used to saying goodbye to old friends and get used to quickly making new friends, and they must be ready for change at any time," says Huang Lun-fen with deep feeling.

Looking to the future, what kind of era will this generation of unsettled children create 20 years from now? Questions like this spring constantly from the children's anxious eyes and their parents' worries, but seem to have no answer. . . .

[Picture Caption]

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"Just who will look after me?" Faced with a change of carers, little children may feel all at sea.

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At two years old children seem ready to leave their nannies' care, but still too small to go to a proper kindergarten. One of the countless neighborhood daycare centers and creches will bridge the gap.

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In the early morning a working mother hurriedly washes her face and puts a comb through her hair before gathering up her baby and rushing off to the nanny's house. At this moment the swaddled infant's eyes are still tightly shut.

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To tackle the knotty problem of young children's day care, the Taipei City government's Bureau of Social Affairs is actively training professional childminders. This year it expects to train over 700. Pictured here is a nannies' training class laid on by the Hsin Yi Foundation.

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Hiring a Filipina maid to look after one's children can allow them to grow up in the safety of their own home. But the maid's culture, language and length of stay are factors which need careful consideration.

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How will our child be affected by its unsettled early childhood? This question weighs heavily on many parents' minds.

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