What is "Respect for Children"?
At the heart of our organization is a belief that demonstrations of respect for children are essential to their healthy development. Showing respect for children is the underlying context for our interactions with children; it helps to define the way we think about problem solving, child guidance and our use of time in the classroom. But, what is respect and what does it mean to be respectful? Webster's dictionary says respect is:
deserving of high regard;
to place special regard or consideration;
to hold in high esteem;
or to have special concern for or reference to
The notion that children deserve special concern is particularly important to our definition of respect for children. We acknowledge that young children deserve special concern because:
- children are vulnerable. Young children do not have the physical, social, emotional or cognitive skills they need to function safely without adult support and supervision. Without our assistance, children can easily make bad choices or be hurt through no fault of their own. We are required to provide the safety net that protects children from harm.
- childhood experiences have a profound impact. Children's experiences during their early years have a profound impact on their later abilities and attitudes. For example, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child tell us "the foundations of social competence that are developed in the first five years are linked to emotional well-being and affect a child's later ability to functionally adapt in school and to form successful relationships throughout life." Simply put, what children experience, either positive or negative, is likely to be a predictor of the way they will interact with others later in life.
- the world is a complex place. Although we spend a great deal of time and effort developing safe environments for young children, there are still many threats that can potentially harm young children. Without our supervision and support, children can easily fall prey to people, events and situations that can do them harm. The responsibility to care for children includes the responsibility to identify and eliminate any potential threats to children.
Caring for children is an enormous responsibility and a rewarding endeavor. The importance of our respect for children can never be underestimated or forgotten. Take a few minutes this week to reflect on your own respectful practices and how you demonstrate special concern for children.