7 Reasons We’re Seeing More Challenging Behavior in Early Childhood Settings

There’s no doubt that veteran early childhood professionals are seeing more challenging behavior in their settings these days. And new teachers are feeling quite unprepared – with good reason – to handle the behavior challenges they’re experiencing. Both groups struggle with the amount of time wasted on classroom management.

Why is challenging behavior more of an issue these days? I think much of it results from changes to early childhood education. From the emphasis on academics and accountability, and the attempt to accelerate child development. Following are seven reasons I believe are behind the increase in disruptive behavior.

Children have almost no time to play — something that early childhood researcher and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige calls “nature’s plan” and “a biological drive.” Experts around the globe agree with this statement. Can you imagine if we insisted that kittens and puppies stay still? If we prevented them from frolicking and playing? The idea is ludicrous – and it should be just as ludicrous when we’re discussing children.

We are demanding that children accomplish things for which they are in no way developmentally equipped. We insist that three-year-olds sit still, learn to grasp a pencil properly, or memorize the meaning of words like hypothesis, which have absolutely no relevance to their lives — because they have to “get ready to be four.” We expect them to read by the end of kindergarten, ready or not. This puts enormous pressure on young children because they’re so anxious to please the adults in their lives. When they continually are unable to comply with adult demands – because the natural course of child development doesn’t allow them to – they become frustrated and unhappy.

Children get little to no downtime, which is detrimental to their mental health. How are they supposed to enjoy their lives when every moment is scheduled for them? Downtime is essential for everybody’s mental health. It also makes free play (child-chosen and child-directed) possible.

We treat children as though they exist only from the neck up and that only their brains matter, when the research shows and good sense validates the importance of the mind-body connection. The failure to acknowledge this connection is the primary reason why play and movement are being eliminated from early childhood classrooms – and why young children are being forced to sit for long periods. Not only does the research demonstrate the importance of the mind-body connection; also, it has demonstrated that sitting increases fatigue and reduces concentration. Tired children who are unable to concentrate have a tendency to act out!

We stifle children’s natural creativity and inherent love of learning through worksheets, standardized tests and curricula, and an insistence on conformity and rote — as opposed to active, authentic — learning. Children are born with a love of learning and are naturally creative, active learners. They’re not meant to be empty vessels to be filled with useless information. This is boring for them!

We pit children against one another with our focus on competition and winning. Competition is not developmentally appropriate for young children – who actually prefer cooperative activities to competitive ones. When children are more well-versed in competition than cooperation, the atmosphere in an early childhood setting is not as friendly as it should be. After all, as I’ve written before, competition increases aggression and other antisocial behaviors.

Too many children spend hours in front of screens, leading sedentary lives (it’s the sitting thing again) filled with virtual relationships instead of interacting with real people in real life – when the research clearly shows that social-emotional development is critical in early childhood and that in-person interactions are necessary for social-emotional development. Additionally, we have research demonstrating that screen time is creating depression and aggression in children.

With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder there are more challenging behaviors in early childhood settings. That children are acting out. How could all of these circumstances not lead to defiance? Defiance is often the only way young children are able to push back. To express themselves.

Heck, if all of this were being imposed on me, even with my verbal ability, I just might act out too!

Note: This post is excerpted and adapted from my online course, “Avoid Behavior Challenges in Your Early Childhood Setting” and in my book, Acting Out! Avoid Behavior Challenges with Active Learning Games and Activities.


  • Sanjiv Bhamre says:

    Very insightful observations, Rae.

    Challenging behavior in children occurs, as you said, because we make them ‘adjust’ to our rules of right behavior. Like sitting tight. Or not having enough free play. Or making them learn to write at the age of 3.

    However, one of the causes of challenging behavior in children, in my experience, has been the inability to ‘express’ emotions. As children are ‘primarily’ emotional, their need of ’emotional acceptance’ is critical at this age. When this needs are not ‘fulfilled’, they demonstrate many unruly behaviors ( such as throwing, hitting, blaming, insisting) that are more difficult to ‘regulate. I would like to have your opinion on the ’emotional’ needs impacting child behavior.


    • Rae says:

      As I mention in the piece, Sanjiv, children are using disruptive behavior because they don’t yet have the ability to express themselves verbally and logically. So, yes, I agree that their inability to express emotions is an issue that results in all kinds of behaviors, including throwing, hitting, etc. I believe that if we accept children for who they are — at the developmental stage they’re at — and make the necessary accommodations, we’ll see much less of that kind of behavior. For example, if we accept that young children are not yet ready to sit, we won’t demand that they do so. If we accept that young children are active, experiential learners, we’ll offer them learning experiences that match their needs. If we facilitate enjoyable activities that promote cooperation, self-regulation, and relaxation, the children will feel cared for and have friendlier feelings toward one another.

      Thanks for weighing in!

    • Amit Patel says:

      Sanjiv, well said! I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. In fact, that is exactly what we are facing with my son.

  • Trish says:

    Unfortunately, your article does not address the fact that 3 year olds should not be in a school setting in the first place. They should be at home with their parents learning important social skills from them! Children should be with their parents until the age of 5 at least! Our society has created a social situation where educators are raising the children for parents. I am frustrated by the blame that is always placed on educators and what they do. With declining resources and little supports for learning issues, few people would survive in a classroom with twenty 3 year olds and only 1 teacher and 1 EA.
    Place the responsibility where it belongs- with the parents.

    • Rae says:

      Trish, it’s not my intention to lay blame anywhere — with the exception of with policymakers who don’t understand child development and can’t be bothered to understand it before making decisions that negatively affect the lives of millions of young children. If teachers are doing the wrong things, it’s because they’re being force to. Wrongheaded policies, along with a culture that is caught up in the belief that life is a race to be won, are creating situations that are hurting children.

      Yes, parents have a responsibility to teach their children social skills. They also have a responsibility to ensure that the child care and preschool settings in which they enroll their children are developmentally appropriate. But, given all the misinformation they’re receiving, they generally have no idea what that means.

      I agree that 3-year-olds should not be in a school setting. But they will be in child care settings. That’s today’s reality. We can’t turn back the hands of time. We can only fight to ensure that in whatever settings young children find themselves they’ll be treated with the love and respect they deserve.

    • KT Wolf says:

      So right, kids should be at home with their parents until they’re somewhere between 5 and 7. We needed feminism, and women should have worthwhile jobs, AND we lost a lot when we turned into a two-incomes-required society, rather than a society where we can survive on one income for a while, when one parent stays home and raises children. I was lucky and for the most part got to raise my own kid, but saw a lot of mothers in my position having to go back to work when their children were two or three years old … or worse, when they were still infants.

      • Rae says:

        I just can’t agree that women working is the root cause of all the behavior challenges. If it is, we’re in big trouble, because we can’t turn back time!

        There are plenty of studies showing that children in child care do great. But that’s IF the child care is developmentally appropriate! I believe the far bigger problem, where parents are concerned, is the misinformation they’re receiving. For instance, our culture’s prevalent believe that “earlier is better” is creating unnatural and unhealthy pressure on our little ones. That’s one thing that absolutely can and must change!

  • Raquel says:

    It all begins in the HOME! Parents are the children’s first teacher and parents should wake up and be responsible for their children’s actions and the environment the children are growing up in. When a child acts up in a negative way, I look at the parents and I understand why. The environment the children are in plays a large role in their behavior. Parents now a days want the teacher to parent their children. And the children’s baby sitter is the television. It’s all very sad!

    • Rae says:

      Raquel, I absolutely agree that much responsibility lies with parents and that in many cases they are not stepping up. That’s evident when I hear a parent say her son is playing Fortnight five hours a day on weekends. But we cannot lay the blame entirely on them.

      Could they give their children more time to play? Absolutely. But it would be difficult to make up for the time lost playing in preschool and kindergarten. Are they asking their children to do that for which they’re not developmentally ready? Sure, in some cases. But that’s based on misinformation they’re receiving. They’re not responsible for the imbecilic decisions being made about the child’s early education. Policymakers without a clue as to what children need and how they learn are making decisions that keep children sitting in the early years, expected to read and write before they get to kindergarten.

      I could go on, but you get the idea. Remember, I didn’t say these are the only reasons we’re seeing more challenging behaviors these days. But I stand by my contention that they are definitely factors.

  • Jan says:

    Actually, for the last 25 years I see every effort in the Pre- & elementary schools in my area to get students up and moving around. We even change their desk positions several times a year to keep changing their perspective and encourage them to engage with students that they may not have had a chance to so far in the school year. There are two official Recesses a day and teachers often add extra ones when they see a need. There is space between study units where students can choose from several activities to enjoy (none of them required to be done sitting). My only concern as a teacher is that we don’t teach the students “Playground games” that encourage interaction and life skill lessons. My greater concern, however, is what is going on at home. I see parents (often validly) too concerned about safety to let their children play outside alone and too busy just trying to keep up to go outside and play with them. Many parents (single and two parent households) are working (long hours) and are exhausted when they get home. They don’t seem to have the time or energy to interact with their children (“What was something funny/scary/new/strange that happened today?”) or read to them at night! We need less screen time at home. Family dinners where everyone helps set up and clean up and we TALK while we eat. We need bedtime stories from books. And parents need more flexible work schedules so that they can enjoy their children and being a parent!

  • Bel says:

    That’s True!Agree

  • Kathryn Barton says:

    Great article! If only we can get people who will listen to common sense & the experts’ with the correct knowledge about this, when they are planning the role of “education” in the system they design for preschoolers.

    • Rae says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Kathryn!

      • Lin says:

        Parents also do not get involved enough in their child’s education and what is going on within the school system of today. They think it’s like when they grew up. I have fought against common core and high stakes testing for years on end. When I talk to other parents many have no idea of the changes that have happened. Parents trust a system that they should be questioning. It’s a travesty that many parents just send their kids off to school without knowing what is going on in the classroom 5 days a week, 10 months a year for years on end. Stop thinking I need my kid to be Einstein by kindergarten and know that children learn through play first and foremost. Ask questions and get involved in where you send your children be it daycare, nursery school, preschool or kindergarten. If your kid is not emotionally ready hold them back or you’re doing them a big disservice today and you will see a child who acts out.

        • Rae says:

          I agree with you, Lin, and appreciate you weighing in.

          In much the same way that people don’t question doctors — because they trust doctors to know what they’re doing — parents don’t question school. They’re also receiving a great deal of misinformation in our current culture. For example, everything from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top to bumper stickers boasting of kids’ accomplishments gives parents the impression that “earlier is better” and that life is one big competition. Those beliefs have become ubiquitous in our society and are a large part of the reason that, even when parents do know what’s going on in schools, they approve.

  • Hmmm says:

    They are coming into these settings with the behaviours in the first place…BEFORE we educate them. Where is THAT explanation?

  • Dale says:

    This is all true but you have left out another factor: an increase in distracted, overworked, uninvolved parenting. For instance, the single parent with 2 or 3 kids that has to work 2nd or 3rd shift and are forced to have very limited contact time with their children, This is creating a generation of latchkey kids who have to police themselves in chaos at home. (With few boundaries). This makes the demands of the school even more rebellion-inducing.

    • Rae says:

      I’m sure there are many more factors involved, Dale! These are just 7 of them.

      I tend to think that “overinvolved” parents are wreaking more havoc than the uninvolved ones — although I’d like to see neither happening!

      My father was sick all of my life and in and out of hospitals. As a result, my mother had no choice but to work, at a time when that wasn’t common. That means my two brothers and I were latchkey kids. And, if I do say so myself, we were all very well behaved kids — because that was the norm back then! Also, school wasn’t the horror show that it is these days.

      Today’s parents are struggling under so much misinformation — for example, that it’s important for them to be their children’s “friend.” I could go on (and on and on), but you get the idea.

      • Julia says:

        I have been a home educator to my 10 children now since 1998 – after having taught in the public schools for 6 years. Things were iffy already in the early 90s…so I’m curious to know what you mean by “ horror show of school” these days..so you mean the curriculum content or kids behaviour?

        • Rae says:

          Julia, I’m referring to curriculum content — and to the expectations for children. As you say, things were “iffy” in the early ’90s. Believe me, they’ve gotten much, much worse since then! A University of VA study has demonstrated that kindergarten is the new first grade. As a result of this pushdown, preschool has become the new kindergarten. And all of this has occurred despite that facts that children haven’t changed and child development cannot be accelerated! Much of the children’s behavior, in my opinion, is in defiance of the nonsense being foisted on them.

  • Lucy says:

    I agree with what you have written here. I am a primary Montessori teacher and can attest to the challenging behavior I experience on a daily basis. I would also add to your list the absence of meaningful parenting. With so much emphasis on making money in our society today, parents are forced to pick and choose. It is a tricky balance to be sure. Having a child means doing that dance so the child comes out on top.

    • Rae says:

      Lucy, for me the “absence of meaningful parenting” doesn’t mean that parents are working. It’s what’s taking place — or not taking place — after work. Too often parents are paying more attention to their screens than to their children. Or, in the mistaken belief that they must help their children “get ahead,” they’re focusing on all the wrong things. I believe it’s more about the quality of time spent together than the quantity.

      • Mary says:

        I agree it’s the quality of time spent together rather than the quantity. My mother became a single-parent when I was ten years old. I have a brother and sister. My mom had to work full-time. She made daily chores a period of quality time. We ate dinner every night at the same time, and altogether! All three of us are self-sufficient college graduates, and have raised self-sufficient, positive, contributing adults!

        I was an educator for 30 years…I have seen those changes in our educational system first hand. Most of my years were in elementary. The educational system SUCKS now!

        • Rae says:

          We also had dinner together as a family every night. I think many of today’s parents fail to realize how important that is!

  • Gayle Holten says:

    I’m reading with great interest. The issues that are raised in the article are, in my personal and professional opinion, are spot on. The observations on the why ….because we’re warehousing children at younger and younger ages….are also correct. I agree they need to be home with parents until the age of 5 and the parents need to be educated and trained on how to best create an environment that meets their needs. And then the issue of blame comes up…are parents abdicating their responsibility by placing their children in out of home settings? The reality is we’ve created a society that requires most mothers and fathers to work in order to support a family. And let’s face it….many families cannot or just barely make ends meet. How many decades has the U.S. been saying we’re a nation of “family values”? The reality is…we’re a nation that values economics. And our kids and families are paying a heavy price. So maybe the solution lies in demanding our policy makers and politicians to legislate in ways that support families who support children. I’ve worked in the field of human services/mental health and have been a trainer and teacher of parenting/family based education for nearly 44 years. Rather than support parent(s) to be at home with their children because we believe in growing mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually healthy children….we’ve relegated children to the bottom of the heap, paying their “caregivers” minimum wage with minimum training. This is not a criticism of the caregiver. Until, as a nation, we know and value what children really need to become all that they can be…all that we need them to be, nothing will change. The best chance is for the parents to build a home that meets the needs of the children so they are resilient enough to survive. The good news….it is possible to do just that!

  • KT Wolf says:

    I’m in agreement, 100%. Even just a short look back in history makes it clear how abnormal our current situation is. Children were meant to be with a parent or grandparent, learning by watching them, playing with other children, with essentially no formal instruction in anything until they’re somewhere between 5 and 8 years old. They learned how to tend animals, or how to harvest food with their mother, or gather firewood–and they learned about their environment in a thousand rich, complex ways. Kids who “can’t read” by the end of Kindergarten sometimes stay that way, because their attitudes toward reading are so negatively affected by the expectation that they’ll get it right off. Where, if you just waited until that same kid was seven, they’d not only get it, they’d be happy doing so. The brain of a child is very flexible in WHAT they can learn, but the essential WAY that they learn has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. It’s not going to change just because someone with a Ph.D. who’s never been in a classroom sits down (remains sitting down) and writes a “standard” for children.

    Today I led a nature walk with 10 children, from 4 to 12 years old, and a cohort of parents and teachers. The kids learned all sort of things. I don’t know what those things were, and I don’t care to test them to find out what they were, but among other things, I know they learned some fundamental examples of evolutionary adaptation, and that big tall birds (cranes) can eat turtles out of their shells, and that it takes 11 kids to fit around a 400 year-old oak trees. And they learned all the things that fit in-between, like how to run down a steep hill and follow a path back the way they came without getting turned around. Isn’t that enough to learn in one day?

    Also, not one of them misbehaved. Not a one, not one time, and I didn’t hover over anyone and neither did the parents or teachers.

    • Rae says:

      They didn’t misbehave because they were totally engaged! Worksheets and drill-and-kill activities will never have the power of a nature walk!

  • Emilse says:

    So as a stay at home mom what are helpful things that I can do at home?We don’t have a schedule well besides eating,I let them play with toys all day long we look at books I read out loud even if they dnt pay attention I dont make them sit either afternoons are spent outdoors even in muddy conditions we also listen to music while I clean the house during bath time we listen to I can spell red.

  • Brenda says:

    Your article is spot on! I am a kindergarten teacher, and I have seen a marked increase in defiant behaviors. When I began teaching many years ago, kindergarten was very fun and engaging. Students played in creative centers, painted, played musical instruments, cooked with the teacher, and much more.
    Now that has been replaced with a very strict curriculum. The students are subjected to daily black and white math worksheets with multi step problems and weekly math tests with bubble sheets for the teacher to complete and scan in to the district. The students are tested on a computer reading program monthly and the average score on that is now being called into question for improvement. I’ve noticed the curriculum for each elementary grade level is now being taught in the preceding grade. It breaks my heart! No wonder the students are frustrated. My question is how do we change this? These policy makers are out of touch with child development. Teachers are directed to follow a strict curriculum with minimal opportunity for input. The teacher unions appear to have no influence either. Thank you for being a voice for children.

  • Shawna says:

    Thank you so much for starting this conversation – I agree that these seven reasons are those teachers can actually change. By making changes to these things, they may be able to actually consider individual children and their specific needs. Those children whose behaviors are the result of the seven items will quickly revert to more manageable behaviors because they will be more engaged in planned and self-directed activities. This allows for teacher assistance to children who may be dealing with ACEs or other home-based issues.
    I work as a TA for ECE administrators and classroom teachers and have found that helping them learn more about creating child-focused, engaging activities, inside and outside can be beneficial to their classroom management. My hope is that it changes how they view children (holistically) and the job as a teacher (learning facilitator instead of authoritarian).

    • Rae says:

      I’m happy to start these kinds of conversations, Shawna!

      You’re doing such important work! Let me ask you: What do you believe teachers can do when it’s the policies that get in the way? For example, the powers that be seem to have decided that accountability is more important than developmentally appropriate practice. The results include the disappearance of play from early childhood settings, children pushed to do things, like reading, at younger and younger ages, and increased use of worksheets and computers. Teachers often tell me they’ll be fired if they go against these policies. Do you have any advice for how teachers can create change when that’s the case?

      Thanks, Shawna!

      • Rae,
        I have come to believe that policies are the core of change in child care centers. Policies represent the beliefs of the center and can direct behaviors beyond the term of an administrator.
        When I work with teachers who find challenges with policies (real or perceived), I often talk to them about being the agent of change. We talk about what the policy may be, alternatives that could be helpful, and how to present it to the administrator. For example, when a center playground schedule doesn’t lend itself to adding more time to a classroom’s outdoor time, we have talked about finding other times or safe locations for extended time. Ideas have included early morning mealtime, a quick jaunt outside before nap time, and dismissal/pick-up when everyone else is outside. Once the teacher has some ideas, we chat about how to present the idea for change to the administrator. I often support this discussion by keeping the admin in the loop and getting supporting evidence for the change. This has worked for a variety of topics from playground time, family style dining, expulsion plans, and developmental parent conferences. Not every teacher has a support like me, it they should feel empowered to talk to their administrator about improving the lives of the children they work with.

        • Rae says:

          What a remarkable job, Shawna! And you’re certainly right when you say not every teacher has such support. I wish they did!

          I absolutely love the idea of encouraging teachers to be the agent of change. I just may borrow that! 🙂

          Thanks for all you do. Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Elaine Parvis says:

    As a former first grade teacher back in the “olden days,” I was shocked and amazed when my great grandson started kindergarten last year. He had just turned five in July and school started in August. He had a homework packet of worksheets each week and was introduced to vowell sounds very early and his entire curriculum was what I had taught the first semester of first grade. He started having serious behaviors immediately. He was and still is on several medications and the school excluded him from attendance many days. He is recommended to repeat kindergarten now. He is changing schools in hope that he can make a new start. It was very hard for me to watch him be so unsuccessful in his first year in school. What you have said about developmentally appropriate education is such an important factor in the school lives and life success of our children.

    • Rae says:

      Oh, Elaine, that is heartbreaking! Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common one these days. There’s absolutely no excuse for what we’re doing to children!!

      I so hope his new school offers just what your great-grandson needs!

    • Joan says:

      Elaine, oh my gosh, I find your comment so disturbing. You comment is the first one to mention medication. I have for years believed that we are trying to medicate our children into compliant little robots so they can somehow achieve something they were never meant to achieve at such a young age. Childhood is not a disease or illness and yet so so many children are being drugged as if it is. Children are being overwhelmed, expected to act as little Stepford children and if they just can’t and act out, they are considered behavioral problems for which medication must be administered. I have grandchildren, two of them not yet school age, and the whole thing just frightens me to death. We have a society today that bases a child’s mental health on criteria that few can accomplish, hence the reason why 1 in 5 boys is taking some form of amphetamine, drugged into compliance. That says a lot about society and how they are treating their children.

      • Rae says:

        What a powerful and insightful comment, Joan. “Childhood is not a disease.” I hope you won’t mind if I use that myself in the future. It needs to be said to as many and as often as possible.

  • Shawn says:

    Imo, the reason we are seeing more “challenging” (negative) behavior is more about worshiping children than having disciplined schedules for them. The new age psychobabble about kids has them up on a pedestal, while we all run around wringing our hands over every single little burp they make. No real discipline, just more mealy mouthed talking about how great they are and would they just love each other?? Kids are kids, at young ages they are ALL just KIDS, they are not adults able to filter information they are given like adults can….They absorb things at young ages with NO ability to filter them. Our violence on TV, Movies, Video games and obviously too much screen time is NO help to them, but it sure helps “adults” not have to deal with them. No means no, it’s OK to cry for not getting what you want, but the answer is still no. I am not going to explain why I said no you will understand when you’re older. That’s the only explanation you’re getting.

    I will not be your playmate most of the time, there is time for that, but you also have to learn to play by yourself. If there is “nothing” to do I can find something for you to do and it won’t be as fun as doing “nothing”. The world did not stop revolving around the sun and start revolving around you, you are one of many in the world, you are a unique individual, but still one of many. I love you and love that you are my child/grandchild, but you are the child and I am the adult who is not raising a child (you already know how to be a child) but a future adult. Raising this future adult accordingly….

    There are times you need to be quiet, be still, and respect the environment you are in….other people do not exist to make life easier for you. Screen time has it’s limits, and what you are allowed to watch is up to me as well. You be a kid, I’ll be the adult. You don’t always get what you want.

    The biggest reason kids are becoming less respectful, less disciplined and acting out more is because the adults in their lives have attempted to hand that baton to the children themselves. Kids like knowing their boundaries, they NEED to learn boundaries or they become adults with no ability to set their own boundaries for themselves. Discipline is not the dirty word new age psychology has promoted, a crying child doesn’t mean a harmed child, nor is not crying some magical emotional elixir.

    No means no, it’s OK to cry if you want, you don’t always get what you want, you’ll understand when you’re older….are all phrases kids need to hear more of imo….Trying to reason with a 3/4/5 yr old is the definition of “adulting” insanity.

    Nice article, but the curriculum is not the major issue imo, it’s kids coming in to school with zero emotional maturity, on account of being worshiped at home until they get to school, then being surprised when all these new rules are thrown at them. When you get to do as you please at home, when your parents “reason” with you and give you what you want when you throw a tantrum and try to figure out “why” you are doing so instead of disciplining you. (and I’m not talking spanking, although in the right context and kid it may work) Kids throw tantrums because they’re kids trying to get what they want, it’s not rocket science, and if you give in you are harming them as future adults. You are NOT helping them by ending every crying episode as soon as possible. Crying doesn’t scar kids for life.

    Adults stopped being adults, the kids haven’t changed, we have, as someone else said….It’s too true, but there aren’t enough adults left to stop it. Even adults act like glorified children now days….They don’t even have the tools to be the adult because they weren’t taught the skills themselves. The kids are suffering for it unfortunately, because I don’t see child psychology changing anytime soon….nor school admins and teachers trained in it….sad really….

    • Rae says:

      Shawn, I agree with much of what you say. But I do blame society more than I blame the parents, who are getting so much misinformation. After all, there’s no easier group in the world to scare than parents. And when they’re told, from multiple sources, that “earlier is better,” for example — that if they don’t enroll their children in this, that, and the other thing — their children will suffer for it, they’re going to enroll their children in this, that, and the other thing. They have been led to believe — from every quarter, including TV commercials! — that they must be their child’s playmate. They have not been trained in child development, and often they don’t live near their own parents, making multi-generational child raising a thing of the past.

      With all of that said, I absolutely believe that, even if the children were being raised as we were — with boundaries, etc. — once they got into preschool and kindergarten, they would be miserable. We may be demanding too little of them at home, but we are demanding far too much of them in school; and they’re pushing back.

      • Shawn says:

        I blame society as well to a degree, especially the belief one needs to be trained in early childhood education to parent effectively. Also, the no child left behind attitude that every child should be catered to scholastically, this reinforces the entitlement mentality prevalent in too many youth imo. Teachers should not fear students, it should be the other way around. Society is being fed a false narrative about children from “the experts”. Children don’t need 5 days of pre-school to meet kindergarten needs, my grandson went 2 days a week this last year and loved pre-school. He’ll attend Kindergarten this fall just turning 5 late August, he’s ready I could care less what the “experts” might say….

        200 yrs ago 5 yr olds were still 5 yr olds, but with massively different expectations and educational attitudes toward them. They are not all china dolls emotionally, nor should they be treated as such. While I wholeheartedly believe in progress and changing educational realities to meet current needs, every child should not be catered to with admins, teachers or aides being their own personal maitre d’ educationally or emotionally.

        We have more kids with emotional problems than ever, more on meds than ever, and it seems no one is asking any hard questions, just more of the same psychological baloney couched as solid food.

        Thanks for the discussion on the topic, it is needed in more parents mailboxes and PTA meetings.

  • Melissa says:

    I completely agree with your article and wish we could make every gov’t official read it and understand it. I’ve taught kindergarten for 17 years now and I too have seen all the changes others have witnessed: what was first grade is now kdg, what was kdg is now preschool– except we don’t even mandate preschool or kdg in my state (Indiana)! That’s just the first ludicrous issue. Teachers know and have known all that’s in your article and these comments. It is mandatory for us to follow all the curriculum, rules, testing, etc or we will be deemed ineffective and let go. What are we to do?! I set out last August with the intention of giving my class of 5&6yr olds an extra recess each day (that would be two play times of 15-20 min) and prove they would do better in the classroom. My principal came to our grade level meeting and told us we had to stop bc it was ____ min lost every day, ____ min lost every week!!! It goes against everything I know and believe, but I have to obey my boss… we must educate parents and encourage them to make their voices heard! No one is listening to teachers, so let the parents be heard– parents can’t be fired! ?

    • Rae says:

      Melissa, my heart aches for you, for all the teachers like you, and for the many children affected by this nonsense.

      When a principal contends that minutes are “lost,” it’s clear s/he doesn’t understand children or how they learn; and hasn’t even bothered to become familiar with the mounds of research demonstrating how ridiculous that statement is.

      With regard to educating the parents, I completely agree with you! I’m holding out hope that we can help them understand what’s developmentally appropriate and they will then help us advocate for it! That’s why I created my reproducible parent letters: https://www.raepica.com/reproducible-parent-letters/.

      In the meantime, is it possible for you to bring the research to your principal? To discuss it calmly and rationally?

  • Mike says:

    I agree…and I blame our Government, schools and society! Both parents don’t want to work all the time just to pay bills…but we have to! The stress over money causes alot of parents to separate. Nothing will be done about this because the Government forces all of this on us. If we don’t do this…we go to jail. If are kids miss 20 days of school… parents can go to jail. Tell me where any success or victory comes from force?

  • Mary Lunde says:

    This article makes good points- I think! Please use a darker color font so that those of us over 30 can see it better. A larger font size would help, too.

    • Rae says:

      Hi, Mary. Thanks for writing. I’ve gone in and changed the color to black. Unfortunately, on WordPress, black isn’t all that dark; and I can’t see a way to increase the font size.

      Just so you know, I’m one of those over 30!

  • Charlie says:

    When a weak Congress created Digital Promise (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Promise), IMO it sold out the nation’s children. Your article is on point. There is too much technology in the classrooms. Weakening FERPA created an incentive for vendors to grab children’s data.

    Tech vendors paying ERDI to pay superintendents to meet with them and whose districts then sometimes buy their products ought to be illegal.

    Further the nation’s children don’t need to have incessant assessments (so say no to e.g. Fastbridge and Curriculum Associates). My district claims to be testing the proficiency preschoolers. What hogwash.

  • Debra says:

    I had to work so my child went to a home setting with 4 other children close to her age until she was 3. Then she went to a home preschool setting with 2 teachers and 15 other children. She is now 30 and expecting her first child. My daughter is well rounded, received her PhD in biomedical engineering and has a full time job as a design engineer with Johnson & Johnson. She was never pushed to do anything but has succeeded in what she wanted to do. As an educator, I never pushed for perfection but for doing her best in whatever she tried. I feel that politicians have gotten too involved in education and children are being expected to do things so much earlier because education funding is so tied to testing. The standards have been written in such a way that children are expected to learn things earlier even if they aren’t developmentally ready. Technology expectations at school don’t allow communication, but parents also don’t have communication with their children. Eating out should be a time to develop social skills not a time to watch videos on iPhones and iPads. I could go on and on but things are just a few of my observances.

    • Rae says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debra! I agree with them! Why we’re allowing politicians, who haven’t a clue about education or child development, to make decisions for students is beyond me. And don’t get me started about families — and teachers and kids — more involved with technology than with each other. I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to realize that sometimes all we need are the simple, old-fashioned methods and things.

  • Dorothy says:

    All of the above are valuable comments. I am a Montessori Toddler teacher and it is an amazing and wonderful experience to observe 18 – 36 months old children in an environment that is well prepared for them to safely explore and learn. Having a safe environment prepared for young children to move around freely, explore, develop and learn as they grow is very important for the survival of our future generation. Many parents need to have some form of education/information about how young children development. I am quite aware of parents who are over worked and over whelmed with the responsibility of caring for their children. However, being informed that there is no need to rush children’s advancement to the next level may help to reduce the need to push young children to achieve things that they are not yet matured to accomplish. It can be a very relaxing and enjoyable experience for both child and caregiver as they bond and understand each other in positive ways, and there will be many hilarious moments that will bring joy to all. Many informed parents and educators will have to work and advocate for changing the ways that young children are educated in our society today. If we don’t, more restrictions may be created to harm the development our young children.

    • Rae says:

      Thanks so much for weighing in, Dorothy. I completely agree regarding the importance of educating parents — most especially where rushing children’s development is concerned. If we can help them understand children’s development and developmentally appropriate practice, they will, I hope, help us advocate for best practices.

      To this end, I’ve created a series of (7 so far) reproducible letters that teachers can share with parents. I believe it may be easier for teachers to share the words of an “outsider” than to try to pass along these messages themselves. “Earlier Isn’t Better” is one of the topics I addressed!

  • A better and healthy lifestyle leads your kids to a developmental and physical growth with activeness, strong bones that make them more creative and productive.

  • Evelia Mercado says:

    I agree with Trish, educators are teaching the children social skills with little support of parents that should be learn mainly at home. Our society that we are living now is very challenging.

  • Darlene Montoya says:

    I was surprised to learn that screen time can lead to depression and aggression.

    • Rae says:

      There’s so much we don’t yet know because screen time is still a relatively new thing in children’s lives. But what research we do have is plenty scary.

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