Leaving Children to Cry

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Self-soothing when a person chooses to be alone and do this is one thing – but leaving children to cry when care should be provided is neglect. See a teacher’s letter below and responses to her letter.

Dear My ECE,

I am an ECE teacher, fairly new to the profession. I have taken up a teaching position at a centre and am appalled by the practices I see. 

Staff are not allowed to pick children up to comfort them – this is frowned upon as ‘teaching dependence’ because small children need to self sooth and learn to be independent.

I have heard two 2-year-olds cry for days when they started at the centre. Upset children are allowed to stand beside the teacher, but cannot be touched, and they are told to “put away your tears” and “You are all right”.

I have been reprimanded by the manager for picking up a toddler who held her arms up to me. I was later transferred to another classroom.

Small children are not allowed to have their cuddly toys unless they are going to bed so if they are having a bad day, maybe a little off colour or there were changes in their routine/home life too bad. No simple comfort for them.

There have been many staff changes in the infant and toddler room, and from what I gather the staff have been debating primary care – can they or can’t they? – due to staffing.

I find attitudes to children with “behavioural issues” concerning, and these “issues” to my thinking are often a result of too many children in a noisy, busy space. 

I have raised my concerns with management, but they endorse these practices. 

I think many of the practices seem to be about making the job easier for busy teachers rather than about respecting and responding to children’s needs.

Why are such practices allowed?

(Name withheld)

Comments on leaving children to cry

That makes me feel incredibly sad.

I am saddened by this, as a parent, teacher and manager. This is not the place you should be learning and strengthening your craft. We are educators but also role models and human beings and these practices you have seen are next to inhuman. In my opinion you need to leave and work where children’s wellbeing is put above all else first. There are better places out there to work.

What a horrible place for children to be in. Children need to give and receive cuddles and hugs. Children’s well-being is paramount. What is this idea regarding no contact.

It seems the mindset of the governing people of this centre, and they could benefit from professional development empowering the child and their whanau through warm, caring responsive interactions. Each to their own in parenting with influential better ways just as it is in ece, make this a better place and reach out. Make a difference in the lives we touch; affection and compassion have a place. I wouldn’t just stand by… 😐

I hate to say it, but I have heard about similar situations in a number of centres. Unfortunately, parents don’t always know what goes on in centres when they are not there. And to be honest if they have never experienced a different philosophy then they might think that all of ECE is like this. Which would be incredibly sad. Best of luck changing things from within. Kia kaha!

This is not quality teaching practice, children need nurturing, self-esteem and a sense of belonging. How do children’s needs get met? That is my question. Report and get out fast. Do you want to become

Firstly, well done for speaking up. Is this ‘belief’ represented in the philosophy? If you feel that strong about your views you could report this practice to the Ministry of Education, which can be anonymous. This type of practice is not allowed but it is tolerated from people who feel helpless. From my experience change needs to start from management…and unfortunately, for you, this is not happening…you need to do something, and it needs to happen fast for the benefit of the children. Good luck, let us know your next step.

As a caring loving teacher this horrifies me. 100% of children that I work with need a cuddle from time to time, some more than others. If we were unable to cuddle the children, we would be in a room full of upset children that have no opportunity to learn and develop into strong children and learners. It sounds like the management team needs to be directed to the numerous studies that find that children need human interaction and touch to be able function as a normal child.

Sadly, things that go on inside a centre when brought to the attention of Ministry of Education get swept under the carpet, and nothing changes…. except decent staff move on: sigh:

What is their centre philosophy? (I have no idea how those practices could be made to sound “acceptable”) Be proactive and reflect on this practice. A child whose emotional needs are not being met can suffer from toxic stress… disengaged from the setting). Be an advocate for the children. Are you up to challenging the status quo? I believe you cannot work in that type of environment without compromising values that are important to you.

See also:

The Code of Children’s Rights in Early Childhood Education

How to Make a Complaint

What is primary caregiving?

One Response

  1. This problem is more wide spread than you think. Our ratios are a big part of it. 1 to 5 ratios are a joke. I can’t give effective care, because I don’t have enough hands. That is why encouraging independence for under 2’s happens. We are stretched to our limits.

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