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The Shocking Truth About Child Care In The US

I'm going to tell you honestly what I know about child care and human development in America but it isn't pretty.

I'm also going to focus on you, the caregiver. Whether you're a parent, a teacher, a provider or, a grandparent, I'm going to refer to you as the caregiver and I'm going to explain how important a role that is through stories, examples and quick tips.

I understand that just having visited this site means that you are a special type of learner who understands many important things and that you are, one of my people.

I have some credentials which you can see below, but the important thing for you to know about me is that I’ve worked in many different childcare situations over the last 40 or so years.

I’ve had my boots in the trenches as well as the sandboxes. My hands have been in the muddiest of mud kitchens and I've read more than 100,000 storybooks to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. I’ve personally taught more than 800 children over the span of my career. And I’ve worked closely with parents and other providers in many different capacities.

This is what I know.

During the first few years of life caregivers bring young children through the trajectory of being completely egocentric and all about themselves to a place where they have an understanding of others.

They begin to learn that although they have their own feelings, rights, wants, and desires, others have them too. That's an accomplishment that matters to the world.

It's an art and a science so take credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately, there is so much wrong in childcare that the above scenario doesn't happen often enough. It's estimated that 85% of childcare in the US is mediocre to poor. I have no idea what percentage of homes are in that dismal category. I would only hope not as many.

I’m going to have to focus on the positives in early childhood because they do exist.

What goes on in the rare 15% of childcare situations that are actually beneficial to children's development is definitely worth studying. And highlighting!

The experiences children actually have can teach both empathy and assertiveness simultaneously. Since the architecture of the brain is being built during the first few years, we can use experiences to help them form attitudes and pathways that lead to nonviolent, problem-solving behaviors.

Here are 3 ideas that really work in the right situations.


Teach empathy through play. It’s how children learn.


Teach peace. Teachers and parents have to stop children from hitting and hurting each other. (free slideshow here, no email needed) That’s only one side of the coin.

We also have to.....


Teach them ways to get what they want without harming others through blame, bias, and bullying. They can learn to wait, learn to communicate better with signs or words, or find other appropriate ways to cope such as asking an adult for help.

That brings me to an important point and one that often gets missed.

There needs to be enough caring adults present in order to get these messages across. That’s where the 15% problem comes in. The number of well-trained people is more than most childcare situations can afford.

No matter what your situation is, as a caregiver, I want you to take the time to take care of yourself.

I don't care how hard it is to do, you have to find a way.

So many depend on you and there's no guarantee they'll take proper care of you. So that only leaves one person.

I want to leave you with a quote that's helped me through the hardest guidance issues I've faced. That's because it tells me that there is a middle ground where good-natured and developmentally appropriate control is balanced with compassionate care.

[Discipline] is about teaching children to respect themselves and others and to show that respect in a variety of settings. It's about having control over children and about teaching children to take over this control for themselves. -Jennette Galambos Stone-


A Guide to Discipline, Galambos-Stone, Jennette, National Association for the Education of Young Children (January 1, 1969)

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.

*you can click on the world PLAY! for a definition

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