Posted by: Roseann Murphy | November 4, 2011

Addressing Misconceptions about Early Childhood Educators

In Dr. Jane Healy’s book, Different Learners, she clearly states, “…today’s lifestyles are a big part of the problems we see affecting young children. Even in affluent communities, the most basic needs of a youngster’s developing brain are violated on a daily basis. How are parents, teachers, caregivers or children to succeed in a culture that does not respect its most important asset-the developing mind?”

Maybe the answer lies in the fact there seems to be different attitudes about who should be shaping the minds of children during the critical first three years. Unfortunately, the most popular style of care, for an infant when parents are unavailable, is inherited by a housekeeper/maid, usually grossly underpaid and patronizingly referred to as part of the family. This person who, often speaks a different language than the parents and almost certainly does not share the same cultural values, is unexpectedly given the monumental task of shaping the mind of the child. They are simply allowed to influence the development of the child’s mind because they have worked with the family before and said, “I like children.”

In the best of circumstances, the maid/housekeeper is asked to take courses on childcare methods of the parents choosing. This is a leap of faith at best. The employer/parent’s are assuming that this level of professional childcare is equal to a skilled labor that can be taught over a series of two-hour courses to anyone regardless of their educational background. In addition, parents have no idea if these methods will be put into practice when the parents are not present.

People from a different cultural backgrounds often have very ingrained in them a right and wrong way to treat an infant and may choose to ignore what they learned in the course, not out of malice, but out of their genuine concern for the child. The responsibility for any negative results this may bring lies squarely on the parents and not the worker, who must reluctantly accept a caregiver role in order to maintain their livelihood.

On the other-hand we have the case of when parents seek out professional caregivers. Many parents take it upon themselves to find the most qualified, most trained, most experienced and professional caregiver they can find who fits their parenting approach best and… is willing to do windows, cook and clean while the child is sleeping (for a fraction of the hourly rate of a professional dog-walker). This level of condescension, blatant disrespect for a professional and most importantly the child, is reflected at the moment of payment. If we hire a plumber or a handyman, when they complete their job they hand us the bill. Often, they will not leave without collecting payments. When it comes to a person hired to care for children it is not uncommon to hear, “this is how much I will ‘give’ you.” In this case, a child is not allowed enough consideration to be taught by a professional who is treated like a professional. “Giving” carries with it the subtle implication that the professional (teacher/caregiver etc.) is fortunate to be “given” a certain amount of money. As if they are competing for the same position with the housekeeper. Either way, the conclusion seems to be the same, a child is not entitled to more care an expertise than a housekeeper can provide, anything beyond that is a luxury.

Here the solution, or conclusion is a simple one, if you can afford to educate yourself and stay with your child for that crucial period of time, do it. It is a short period of time that is as beautiful and unforgettable as it is fleeting. If this is not possible and you need the help of another person to be there when you are not, make sure that you consider first and foremost the value of your child and find for them an educated professional whom you respect and admire enough to share time with your child.

Post by: Magdalena S. Palencia and Roseann Murphy

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Responses

  1. Child care has long since been a profession that hold little or no esteem in the work force in general. Early childhood educators are often on the low rung of the education ladder.
    Even people with Masters Degrees are often categorized as being in the field only because they “love children” Never a thought goes to the fact that the person is an educator and interested in human development.
    I have yet to hear someone with an MBA in finance described as being in the profession because they “love money”

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  2. Magnificent article! We must value our children…what a great message. Thank you.

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    • Patt, we are so pleased that you were able to read and comment on this important article. Patt has an extensive background in early childhood development. She has worked in and has experience with less than satisfactory child care centers. Her experience includes research and working one on one with special needs children and adolescents. Your input is so welcome. Thank you again.

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  3. Wonderful article! Quite an eye opener.

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  4. Hi, this is the first time I have come upon your blog, and was thrilled to see an Hebrew sign in one of your pictures…I live in Israel (North) and am looking to find like-minded parents and support groups, in which to participate. Can you please let me know whether this picture is from a child care center you are familiar with, just another kibbutz child care picture (like my son goes to), or just a random photo you posted on the blog. I would love Israeli resources!

    Thank you so much,

    Safra

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  5. Wonderful article, it is too bad more parents don’t understand how truly difficult it can be to know a child other than your own in a way that can help them to grow socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children are born learning. They deserve a caregiver who respects their sense of exploration, need for closeness and their communication tools. It is a sad testament to the way we marginalize all children in our culture. Always talking about how ‘kids these days…’ or how we need to discipline more. Culturally we really are at a loss when it comes to understanding the beauty of how a child’s mind works as they grow.
    (and your quote above about someone in finance being described as someone who loves money is great! I may have to steal it 😀 )

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    • Thank you for your comment. You are right, we still have a long way to go for this profession and the children to get the serious consideration they deserve.
      – Magdalena

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