Date Posted: January 30th, 2007
In my book, Equal Partners, I have a chapter on child care. This chapter includes a section on the Children of the Kibbutz. Since in our modern Western society we cannot resurrect the clan upbringing, it occurred to me that the kibbutz system could serve as a substitute.
In some kibbutzim* the children live in a Children’s House (Bet Hayeladim) rather than with their own families. They are organized into social units of 5 or 6 children of the same age under the supervision of a caregiver (Metapelet). Each unit has its own bedroom, bathroom, dining room, playroom, and yard.
In the case of infants, mothers spend time with them and the metapelet in the Infant’s House (Bet Hatinokim). However, after the first year, they usually see their parents and siblings only for two hours in the late afternoon. These visits with the parents are purely social. The metapelet care for the children on the physical, emotional and developmental levels.
* I understand that the above system is becoming less and less prevalent in kibbutzim across Israel. No matter. I am interested in the idea itself rather than the extent to which it is still being used.
The effect of the kibbutz way of child rearing have been studied in Israel by comparing the development of kibbutz children with children raised in traditional families. These studies show no differences in mental development or mental health, but there are some differences in the qualities of the children’s relationships with families and friends. Kibbutz children do form strong and positive relationships with their families and friends, just as children in traditional families do, but their feelings – both positive and negative – in the relationships are more moderate and not so focused on single individuals. They diffuse their affection across a large number of people, and their relations with any of them are less intense.
Can we duplicate the kibbutz experience first on a small scale, and later on, on a large scale? We can have full-time child care centers where small children (from 0 to 6) live full-time and where caregivers provide for their physical, emotional, and developmental needs. The parents can visit their children, take them out, have them for the weekend and on weekdays. The choice is theirs. In other words the kibbutz system is emulated but the approach is changed as the circumstances warrant.
Without a doubt there will be many objections to what I am proposing. Such a system is not for everybody. Parents should be able to choose between a full-time child care center or a traditional day care center.
One of the major drawbacks of full-time care centers is that they will prove costly. Another one is the need to espouse a completely different philosophy in the way we raise our children.
Is this generation ready for such a major change? Only time will tell.
Source: Clarke-Stewart, Alison. Daycare. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.
Article Series - Child-Rearing - An Ancient Formula
- Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula – I. The Clan Upbringing
- Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula – II. A Personal Example
- Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula – III. The Children Of The Kibbutz
- Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula – IV. Some Additional Comments