By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The Ottawa-based Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) warns government-sponsored early learning programs may harm the integrity of developing children.
In an Aug. 30 article, IMFC research and communications manager Andrea Mrozek quotes Canadian developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld of The Neufeld Institute who says socialization is more than being able to get along with others; it means being true to oneself.
Neufeld describes a teacher who is unable to disagree publicly with other teachers, giving her the appearance of being “nice” and “getting along with others” when it is fear of conflict motivating her. She may pass that fear onto her students, but the lack of ability to diplomatically disagree with others does not indicate maturity, he says.
“You have to be separate enough so you can be with your equals without losing your distinctiveness,” Neufeld told IMFC.
Socialization has different meanings, Mrozek says, quoting another developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, who says: “It should be clear that being socialized is not necessarily being civilized. Nazi youth were also the products of a socialization process.”
“Socialization in childrearing means rendering children fit for society so that children can grow and mature into becoming contributing adults, who can respectfully interact with others in community, be it at work or home, with colleagues, family and friends,” Mrozek writes.
Mrozek also warns about the dangers of children becoming more attached to peers than to adults, including their own parents, when they spend the day with those of their own age group.
“The concept of attachment, developed primarily by psychologist John Bowlby, denotes the instinct that causes adults to care for children and children to receive that care,” she writes. “Successful early attachment is necessary for adult emotional developing.
Kids First Parents Association president Helen Ward tells IMFC: “In order for children to grow up into the mature adults we desire them to be, they have to spend time with adults they are attached to, not their own likewise immature peers.”
“This means that if we take the attachment figure away---through death, illness, distractions, daycare, or any disruption in attachment relationships---and replace it with peer attachment—puff—the kid will be a ‘lord of the flies’ type because the seemingly ‘socialized’ behavior is simply copying, it is not ‘inside’ yet,” Ward says.
Neufeld warns of a “flatlining of culture” when children spend too much time with peers.
“We have a children’s culture of today,” he tells Mrozek. “In Europe, there is a crisis, which is that youth are not integrating into mainstream society and people believe it is happening in North America as well.”
It may help to delay children’s entry into school to help them develop their individuality, Neufeld says.
Despite the social science opinions that children do better outside institutional “early learning” daycares, the political push for them continues, largely because of workforce pressures, Mrozek points out.
Current public policy puts pressure on both parents to have full time jobs, Mrozek writes. “As a result, labour force attachment trumps parent-child attachment,” she says.
She notes that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty would like to see schools to become drop off points for children for all-day, all-year-round daycare.
When learning centres are preferentially funded and subsidized, it creates an incentive for parents to use them, Mrozek says.
Parents should reject a government-run “one-size-fits-all” approach to early learning, she writes.
Instead, she says public policy should allow for income splitting so one-income families are not penalized if one parents stays home looking after children. “More money in parents’ pockets always means more choices,” she says.