The Darkside of Preschool

(Thank you Dominique for sharing the article: The Darkside of Preschool: Peers Social Skills & Stress)

“Researchers found that the more time kids spent in non-maternal care during the first 4.5 years of life, the more behavioral problems they developed.”

This article reinforces what we (and many concerned parents) have towards the ill effects of preschool on young children.

Through my own observations and experience, children become either more introverted (as in my daughter’s case) after going to preschool, or more aggressive (which is the case for many kids, especially boys). And it doesn’t help when preschools are extensions of the schooling system that is heavy on the academics and light on the creative artistic expressions. And sports is relegated to a once-a-year sports day event and looking good for the day supercedes the quality of sports. 

So much is said about the importance of “socialization” for children but we can see that this is often negative in the school setting where children get into different “gangs” or groups and are expected to behave according to what is expected of them, like hating a particular kid or taunting those who appear weak or different. This is the outcome of grouping same-aged kids together on a daily basis for more than 4 or 5 hours each day! Contrary to what is widely believed, this practice is NOT normal for young children and research has now proven it to be true. This is why children who do not attend preschool (as in homeschoolers) do not display such reported negative behaviours and are actually better socialized than the school-goers in general. This is because in normal life, children interact with people of diverse age on a daily basis, where they learn from older people (such as parents, older siblings or grandparents) proper social skills (provided they have them!) and consideration for others. And with younger ones, they learn to be gentle and caring as is often shown by the adults. One parent was especially amazed at how well my children (aged 13, 12 and 5) could interact with the younger children (aged 1.5 to 4) in our playgroup.

So the question we should ask is: if preschools have such a negative impact on young children, why should parents continue to send their kids there?

I am often baffled by the reasons parents give for sending their children to preschool. Most parents believe that children gain an upper-hand by attending preschool because they get an early start to preparation for formal schooling. And on top of that, they also send their kids for extra tuition after school to make sure they are on par or ahead of others in their class. All this goes against the natural development of children where a less structured schedule is more beneficial than a highly packed and overly structured program. But because everyone (parents, educators and policy-makers) is pushing it based on FEAR – the fear of failure, the fear of being left behind, the fear of not becoming “employment material” in the future, we fool ourselves into believing that the schooling system is the only way towards a better future.

We often forget that education should be based on LOVE – the love and respect for oneself, others and the environment. And when children go through life with a deep sense of love and compassion for others, they are happy and fulfilled, and when they are happy and fulfilled, they become true learners. 

A better alternative to preschools is playgroups, where parents take the initiative to form them with the intention of creating opportunities for play and positive interactions (for both the children as well as the parents). When done in an informal manner, this can be a very positive experience and journey because the focus is on PLAY which is essential for the healthy growth and development of young children (as well as adults for that matter!). However, this is also in danger of being institutionalized and commercialized so much so that play sessions become another form of a highly structured and expensive activity. Even in these settings, one sees parents with high expectations and wanting to see “real” learning as in using flashcards and doing math drills!

So we MUST manage our fears and expectations properly and not let them rule our lives. Instead, we must take charge of our lives and let our children have a childhood.

That’s all they truly need, really!


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2 Responses to The Darkside of Preschool

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this post.

    My son is almost 3yo and I have been pressured to send him to pre-school, but I haven’t even thought about it, and already decided before he was born that I wasn’t going to ha ha :p

    I’ve also been told “Look at your child. He loves company. And you keep him cooped up at home. Poor little fella, no socialization.”

    Thing is, I take him everywhere with me and I think that’s good socialization enough! :p Lately however, he’s been very anti-social, I do hope it’s just one of those phases a toddler goes through!

    I am looking for a playschool (where there’s just PLAY!) but haven’t found one nearby 😦 I’ve this warped idea that I need to be there, and stop any misbehaviour – therefore, I can’t send him to a playschool where I can’t be around..
    He’s learnt how to kick/snatch from playing with other children – but I’ve also been told that if he doesn’t go through that (by me not sending him to school..), he won’t be able to stick up for himself, is this true?

  2. chong wai leng says:

    hi Lisa,
    I strongly feel that parents need to be with their young to teach them social skills and not let other toddlers do the teaching! The few playgroups that I had initiated over the years, where there was more PLAYING than teaching by adults, have proven that our presence with our children at a young age, is essential in establishing good behaviour and social skills in them. They don’t learn these from other preschoolers. In fact, they pick up all the negative behaviours from them! If being able to “stick up” for oneself means being a bully like the others, then I would much rather that my kid stays at home! And no, he is far from being anti-social – he mixes well with just about anyone, from a 70-year-old grandma to a 3-year-old active toddler!


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