Further Reading

How to treat a crack baby – or any other child

Dear Stanton,

I have been a grade school teacher for over 25 years and have never before come across a child who is considered a "crack baby." He is eight years old and reads at about the 1st grade level. He whines, pouts, throws tantrums, and is easily frustrated. His grandmother is his main caretaker, and he loves her to pieces. But she is in the hospital for the next month. I have spoken with her by phone before.

I've been able to gain some rapport with this boy, and to improve his reading and comportment. I believe he has been allowed to throw tantrums, been excused for bad behavior, pitied, and generally allowed to get away with things other children do not get away with. Can you give me more insight as to how to intervene and get him going and to open up his intellectual capacity in school so that he can have a life? Also, should I involve his grandmother when she is able?



Your insights are sound – the issue in dealing with a child who has been diagnosed as a crack baby, and who has no doubt had many life disruptions, is to offer him the best opportunity to participate in life, develop his abilities, and become a full member of first the classroom, then the world. I applaud you recognition of this truth, and your skill and effort in making this happen.

Although you have not had a so-called crack baby in your class before, I am sure you have had children who are missing the mark in your classes. I imagine you used many of the same techniques to deal with them. The issues are similar how do you provide discipline and direction to a child whose family is failing to do so? Obviously, to the extent you can involve some family members, to that extent you will be more likely to succeed.

But the most important thing is not to artificially limit the expectations for this child. Of course, pushing any child beyond his capacities is not a good idea. But to visualize this child as a fully functioning and participating human being is a boon to him and to his family.