As an advocate for children, I have been disheartened by recent news reports of children being treated inappropriately by those entrusted with their care. Once again I find myself in the middle of discussions about what constitutes quality child care. As I struggle with questions and discussions, some guiding principles from the National Association for the Education of Young Children must be considered.
Childhood is best understood as a unique and valuable stage of the human life cycle. Children are not small versions of adults with limited capabilities. Rather children must be recognized as vulnerable, yet vastly capable in abilities that allow them to experience growth and development at the most rapid rate of the life span.
In viewing childhood as a unique and valuable stage, young children must be treated with respect. The same consideration that adults give each other should also be given by the adult to the young child. The dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each child is of paramount importance and to be esteemed.
We know that children grow and develop best in an atmosphere of trust and security. When needs are met and secure attachments are formed, young children have the confidence to move out for exploration and learning.
Finally and most importantly, the overriding principle as outlined by the NAEYC Code of Ethics is this: Above all, we shall not harm children. We must not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative or intimidating to children.
For many of us, these principles guide the work we do daily with children and families. We will continue to speak out; we will continue to work; and we will not stop until principles such as those outlined above are in place and making a difference for all children.