The Top 5 Myths Educators Hear from Parents in Early Childhood Education

In this episode of The Preschool Podcast, we welcome back Rae Pica, Award-winning early childhood education author, speaker, and online educator. Rae is on a mission to ensure child development guides all of our practices with children! She dives into the myth-busting common misconceptions about young children and parents in this episode.

Rae recently launched a parent membership program called The Truth About Children: Who Says Kids Don’t Come with a Handbook? It’s her way of doing what she’s been begging early childhood professionals to do for years: bust the myths and let parents know what’s really right for their little ones!

5 Myths Rae Busted on The Preschool Podcast

Pandemic Related Learning Loss. Rae mentions this fear of children losing out on learning from the past year or so has been a huge concern of educators and families. However, we must remember that a lot of these standards are arbitrary and unrealistic and are often set by people who may not know about children’s development. Rae stresses that if children were playing, helping their families, playing outside, and doing “general kid things” that they’ll be just fine when school returns.

Social Media is a Great Source for Information. Although social media is a fantastic way to connect with other families and experts, it’s also a great source of misinformation. Misinformation can be spread so easily throughout social media so being diligent on media and information sources is imperative as an educator and parent.

Friendly Competition Never Hurt Anyone. Parents and families may find themselves competing with each other for “who can parent the best”. Parents want the best for their children and are worried about getting parenting wrong so there is additional pressure caused by social media and other sources that parents feel the need to keep up with.

Earlier is Better. Whether it has to do with academics or athletics, parents are lead to believe that they have to give their children the “jump-start” in order for their children to be successful and if they don’t their children will fall behind. This has resulted in families seeking out academic-oriented child care programming rather than play-based programming. In turn, this means we’re losing out on a lot of great programs and opportunities for children. Rae comments that “A lot of the academic programs available may not be developmentally appropriate for children.”

Play is Not a Productive Use of Time. If earlier is better then you’re going to value productivity and accomplishment more than something that seems frivolous like play. This is a common myth that can easily be busted based on research conducted that children who are enrolled in play-oriented programs do better in life including academically than children who are enrolled in academic-focused programs.

We need parents on our side in terms of what’s the truth about chidren, what’s really right for children so that parents will help educators advocate for it.

Rae Pica, The Preschool Podcast

Rae highlights that educators can get parents and families on board with educating themselves by informing them. Rae states that educators already have so much to do throughout the day that educating families add to their increasing workload. Presenting a great article or video that you found as an educator is a great way to inform parents on topics that may pertain to their child.

Want to connect with Rae and learn more about her new parent membership program? Check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for tons of free and accessible resources!

Episode 263 Transcripts

Rae PICA:

Is it possible that we have young teachers coming into the profession who were raised during the digital age over the last 20 years when we were too afraid to let them outside and we valued other things more than play? Maybe they don’t themselves know the value of it. What do you think?

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Rae, welcome back to the Preschool Podcast!

PICA:

Thanks, Ron. I’m so glad to be here again!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, we’re glad to have you. We have Rae Pica. She is an author, a speaker, an early-childhood educator. And we’ve had her on the show before – she’s a veteran on the Preschool Podcast. And we’re excited to talk to her today about something new; something new to the Preschool Podcast. And we’re going to be talking about busting myths, myths related to children and their development. Rae, great to have you back. Tell us a little bit what you’ve been up to since we last chatted.

PICA:

Oh, well I don’t remember the last time we chatted. I think this is time Number Four because I always seem to have something to say. And I’m sure it was before pre-pandemic – everything before and after now.

So, there’s been a lot of staying home with the cat. But I am working on my 22nd book and creating new online courses. And fortunately I was able to do I think almost all of my keynotes virtually. We switched to Virtual and I quite enjoyed that. For some reason I felt closer to the people because I was sort of within touching distance on my computer screen doing it that way. It was less formal. I think I liked it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Oh, interesting. And were you doing online courses, pre-COVID [19]? You were talking about [how] everything’s pre- and post-. So, I’m going to ask you if you were doing online pre-COVID.

PICA:

Yeah, I had developed a few of them before that. And I’ve got a couple of new ones now. So, there’s just always… I just like creating. I just always want to get more information out there. Can’t quite seem to help myself.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah. And before we get into that a little bit more and the topic for today, I’m just curious to know with COVID and everything that’s been happening, has that evolved any of your thinking around early-childhood education and what’s happening in relation to children’s development in any way?

PICA:

The first thing that comes to mind, Ron, is the whole “learning loss” thing, which is a phrase that sets my teeth on edge. I read an article even about the quote-unquote “devastating learning loss” preschoolers are experiencing due to the pandemic. And it just infuriates me.

A lot of things infuriate me because when we’re talking about learning loss in children that young, what we’re talking about is that maybe they’re not going to meet some unrealistic and arbitrary standards that was set for them by people who don’t know a darn thing about children.

So, if they were playing, if they were helping mom in the kitchen, if they were doing like kids things, they’re going to be just fine. I do think… I’ve been thinking that for August, another creation, I might create a webinar on how early-childhood educators can support the social-emotional aspect of things when children return. For those who haven’t been with other children for a while, it could be a tough transition. So, I’d like to do what I can to help ease that transition. So, I might be creating something new.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. Well, you’re good at that. So, we’re happy for you to keep creating new things that you can share with the early-childhood education audience out there. I’m sure people will appreciate it.

Okay, so getting into this topic… and I’ll just read this note that I saw from you or from my team, which I thought was great because you started this program for parents. And you’re saying it’s your way of doing what you’ve been begging early-childhood professionals to do for years, which is busting the myths and letting parents know what’s really right for their little ones, which I thought was a good way to put it.

So, let’s start off just with, I guess, a broader question of, [are there] any trends you’ve noticed recently with respect to misinformation or myths about children and early-childhood educators?

PICA:

I don’t know that I would say recently, I would say in the last couple of decades, maybe since No Child Left Behind, things have gone wacky with early-childhood education, with raising and educating children.

And honestly, I don’t know how… I don’t know the origin of these myths, but they’ve grabbed hold. I think that social media hasn’t helped as much as social media does help with some things. I think there’s no greater platform for spreading misinformation, perpetuating it. And competition, I mean, that’s a big one. And the parent who chooses, because she knows she shouldn’t, to enroll her child in 27 organized programs will be looked at in horror by the parent who has enrolled her child in 27 programs.

So, when you read that stuff on social media, it’s hard because parents want the best for their children. I mean, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. And the other thing that hasn’t changed is that they’re worried about getting it wrong, right?

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of pressure. And yeah, you’re right, social media almost creates additional pressures where, of course, everybody has an opinion about anything on the Internet, especially with social media.

And so it sounds like something that you’re really passionate about is early-childhood professionals playing a role in keeping parents informed on the truth. So, in fact, this parent program you’ve launched is called The Truth About Children. And so let’s talk about that for a moment. And, of course, early-childhood educators have a lot going on. How can they make time for educating parents, I guess, and informing parents about myths and misinformation? And how best should they go about doing that?

PICA:

Yeah, I always feel badly when I tell an audience, for example, that really it’s as much our job to inform the parents as it is to educate the children, I can sense the energy in the room change, back when I was in a room. Because, as you said, Ron, they have so much on their plates already. Honestly, I can’t even imagine these days what is involved in a single day of being an early-childhood educator, much more than any of us realize, I’m sure. So, asking them to do one more thing seems kind of mean.

So, I think that it’s really essential because in the long run it makes things easier for us. We need parents on our side in terms of what’s the truth about children, what’s really right for children, so that parents will help us advocate for it.

And that’s another thing. I mean, just the whole advocacy piece, asking early-childhood professionals to do that is, is this is putting more on their plate. But I think it can be simpler than we imagine.

Somebody yesterday said to me that with every communication with the parent… and I think most early-childhood professionals are doing this already. There are apps for it that make it easier. She just includes a little, just a sentence: “Play is a biological drive. Play is the way nature intended children to learn.”  Just a little blurb here and there.

There are lots and lots of ways that I recommend getting the message out to parents.  You can put it on the board next to the door when they enter or over the children’s cubbies, if the parents come in to help them with their jackets or whatever. So, it’s possible to do it virtually and it’s possible to do it live and in person.

I think that when we think about what’s happened to play-oriented preschools, we have to know that much of that is because parents are getting misinformation. Parents have been led to believe – and here’s the myth that I think is the biggest one and the most harmful – earlier is better. So, whether we’re talking about academics or athletics, parents have been led to believe that they have to give their children that jumpstart in order for them to be successful and that if they don’t, the children will fall behind forever and ever, amen.

And it’s scary. There’s no easier group of people to scare than parents. So, that “earlier is better” myth has resulted in parents who go to interview preschool directors, and when they find out that one is play-oriented, they move on to the one that’s academic-oriented.

And we’re losing a lot of good programs; we’re losing a lot of good early-childhood teachers. And the ones who are staying are under a lot of stress because they’re often being asked to teach in ways that they know to be wrong, to be developmentally inappropriate for the children. So, I’m babbling on, you’d better ask another question.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Well, you’re right, though. I mean, as a parent, it is stressful, this “earlier is better” thing. Because especially with COVID, there was lots of things you couldn’t do with your children. And I think that made a lot of parents even more stressed because it’s like, “Oh,, now we’re going to be starting this later. And how is that going to affect my child and everything?” And yeah, it creates a lot of anxiety, absolutely.

PICA:

It does. It does, for everybody involved, for the teachers, for the parents, for the children. Because child development can’t be hurried; it can’t be accelerated. And if we keep trying, it’s just not having a great effect on the little ones.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah. And let’s talk about other myths that come to your mind that are some of the more common ones that you see.

PICA:

Well, I think that’s maybe secondary to “earlier is better” is, “Play is not a productive use of time”. Because if earlier is better, then you’re going to value productivity and accomplishment more than something that seems frivolous like play. So, a lot of these myths do go hand-in-hand.

And of course, that’s why they’re looking for the academics-oriented ones. And they don’t know the research because what parent has time to keep up with the research in matters related to young children and early-childhood education? And how many of them have studied child development? Why would they have studied child development?

So, they don’t know that the research actually shows children who are enrolled in play-oriented preschools do better in life, including academically, than those who are involved in academics-oriented preschools. They don’t know that stuff.

How many people know that play is a biological drive as much as breathing? How many think about the fact that the adult personality is built on play, that it’s through play children learn all these skills that they will use throughout their lives: cooperation, collaboration, compromise, negotiation, problem-solving, taking the perspective of others, conflict resolution, did I say that one already?

I mean, there are just so many skills that children learn through play. And parents just see the little ones playing. They don’t grasp that this is the basis of everything for their children. So, that’s a big one.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah. And so all of these points, I guess, fundamentally are kind of a really big deal if we talk about parents’ views and understanding and education of our youngest children’s learning and development. It could be an absolute game changer to make forward progress on this. And to the earlier conversation, early-childhood professionals, of course, can and should play a very central role in this.

PICA:

They’re the experts.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

They’re the experts. Yeah, to your point, a parent, understandably, isn’t an expert in early-childhood development. But that kind of begs the question for me, which is in addition to time, which we talked about – and absolutely, early-childhood educators, I’m amazed at how they have any energy left at the end of any day, let alone every day, day after day, doing what they do. But what are other barriers, do you think, to early-childhood professionals taking a bit more of a leadership role in this grassroots education of parents, let’s call it?

PICA:

I think part of it is, and I recently – and maybe that’s a better word still – changed the term “educating parents” to “informing parents” because I do not want to sound condescending. So, I think that a lot of early-childhood professionals may have a similar worry that they will come across as the big experts. So, it has to be done. It has to be done diplomatically.

And I always say the way to handle that is to do it with enthusiasm. If you come across a great article – not a white paper or something filled with references that you might find in a textbook, but a great little piece somewhere about the value of play or the value of boredom or all of these things that we want to understand – you just hand it to a parent with enthusiasm. “I just came across this great article. I thought you might like to see it.” I mean, who could… I don’t think anybody could get mad at that. So, I think that is part of the worry, that we come across as know-it-all’s.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, yeah. I think early-childhood education is different than school-age education for a lot of the reasons you’ve been talking about. But I think teachers might be especially conscious of that because they’re teaching children and then the parents are maybe having a view that they’re not the children. So, they’re adults that aren’t necessarily part of the classroom. So, I can see that.

PICA:

Yeah. And also I think early-childhood professionals – and there are probably a few people my age who remember this – are like the Rodney Dangerfield’s of the world, they “don’t get no respect.” They don’t get the same kind of respect. And so maybe they’re not going to… they’re afraid they’re not going to be taken as seriously as experts. That might be another worry.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

That’s a good point. But if I may suggest that maybe those two things go hand-in-hand a bit, too, right? The more you’re informing parents with your professional and well-educated points of view on children’s development, that helps garner and build respect for you and the early-childhood profession, I might say, too, no?

PICA:

Oh, I love that. That is such a good point. And I’m going to use it to, thank you.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yes, please do, please do. Because yeah, it’s a big thing, right? Like, you go to the doctor’s office and everybody immediately is listening to everything the doctor says because they’re a doctor. But they also have a lot of confidence to tell you what you should and should not be doing exactly the rule.

PICA:

Exactly, that’s a good analogy.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool. So, some interesting conversation there. One other theory is, do you think it’s possible that because early-childhood educators live and breathe these concepts every day, that they might not get the disconnect with parents? Because everyone listening to the Preschool Podcast, most of our listeners would know: play-based learning is critical. And that’s sort of common knowledge in the early-childhood education field. So I guess, is part of this also being really conscious to say this is almost like a responsibility to inform parents?

PICA:

I believe it’s a responsibility. I believe it’s a responsibility to themselves, to the parents, of course, to the profession, but especially to the children. Because the toll it’s taking on the children is just unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable.

But regarding the disconnect, Ron: I had a preschool director say to me, tell me how frustrated she was because her teachers were accommodating the parents’ wishes, which meant they were doing – and this is her quote – “sit-down academics”, another phrase that gives me the willies.

So, those teachers why were they not following the philosophy of the director of the preschool? I don’t know. Is it possible that we have young teachers coming into the profession who were raised during the digital age and were raised over the last 20 years when we were too afraid to let them outside and we valued other things more than play? Maybe they don’t themselves know the value of it. What do you think?

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, certainly there’s been a shift in how children were brought up over the last 20 years versus the previous 20 years. It’s one of the things we’ve talked about on the Podcast before that – certainly would resonate with me – is just, like, the concept of being bored. I don’t know if children out there are bored anymore. There’s always some show to watch or game to play, whether digital or otherwise, where when I when I grew up, it was at least the time when you had to figure out on your own what you were going to do.

PICA:

Yes. And didn’t that serve you well? It served me well.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, exactly. It could absolutely be something about that.

PICA:

It’s another myth, Ron. Parents believe that they have to keep their children entertained at all times and that boredom is a bad thing. I had a young mom, this was a few years back, come up to me after a keynote and say, “Is it okay if I don’t always play with my child? And at that time, I didn’t know what the heck she meant. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. I just sort of stared at her for a little bit.

And then it clicked. And I hope that I did my best to reassure her that it was for the child’s benefit that she not play with her all the time. Can you imagine if your mom had been with you all the time as you played as a child? I can’t.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, no, even that has changed a lot, for sure. Our son asks us constantly to play with him and we have to sometimes push back.

PICA:

And how old is he?

SPREEUWENBERG: 

He’s turning four in a few weeks.

PICA:

Yeah, well, you know it’ll serve him well to figure it out on his own. And if he can’t, this is a big decision for four-year-old. So, maybe just give him a couple of choices. “Well, if you’re bored, you can do this or this.” Maybe you’ve set up some art materials over here; maybe you’ve set up some construction stuff over there. “Here are your choices.” Make it easy for him.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

This is where the early-childhood education experience comes in handy. But actually also just a really good example of why it’s helpful for ECE’s [early-childhood educators] to tell parents like myself and inform, I should say, parents like myself about how to deal with situations like that. So, there we go.

Before we wrap up, Rae, one of the things we’re trying to do is have our listeners – early-childhood educators, parents as well, that are out there – constantly learning as well through resources that are recommended from our guests on the Preschool Podcast. Is there anything you might recommend in terms of a book, podcast, blog, etc. for listeners to check out where they can learn more about this topic or anything related to early-childhood education?

PICA:

Well, I mean, if I may, I would love to have them… The Truth About Children, which you mentioned earlier, is a new program I’ve launched because I felt guilty asking the educators to do it. So, I thought, I’m going to help. I’m going to help inform the parents. So, I created The Truth About Children. And it’s a monthly program, a membership program for parents.

However, there is an option for early-childhood professionals who want to join. And they get licensed. They receive a license to share the program with the families in their program, no matter how many families they might have. And you just go to www.RaePica.com. And there is “For Parents” up at the top of the heading and you click on that.

And then the new book I’m working on – and I’m sure we’ll be in touch again after that is published in October of 2022. – it’s the delayed gratification. And my book, it’s kind of excruciating. That’s going to be about advocacy. Spark a Revolution in Early Childhood Education: Speaking Up For Yourself and the Little Ones.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

I love it. Wow, cool.

PICA:

Me too, thanks.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

That’s an exciting one and, of course, related to this topic about informing parents as advocating for early-childhood education. So, I love it. Thank you for creating those resources. Thank you for writing your 20-something odd book on an important subject. As always, we appreciate hearing from you, Rae. And as you mentioned and for our audience, www.RaePica.com, if you want to get in touch with Rae or check out any of the resources on her website. Thanks, as always, for joining us on the Preschool Podcast!

PICA:

Thank you so much, Ron. This was fun!

Kiah Price

Kiah Price is a Social Media Specialist at HiMama. Prior to HiMama she was an Early Childhood Educator in a preschool classroom in Toronto. She is the Jill of all trades at HiMama from dipping her toes in Sales, Customer Success, Operations, and Marketing! She enjoys sweating through spin classes, hot yoga, and biking along the waterfront trails in Toronto. She loves traveling and trying new foods and wines across the globe- 29 countries and counting!

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