Thirty-eight years of experience as a parent and 38 more years as an early childhood professional since the original Ourselves in their shoes was published have hopefully made me wiser and humbler. I know about the gap between the parent I’d like to be and the reality. I know about the inevitability of not always doing the ‘right thing’, or sometimes even not knowing what the ‘right thing’ is. This is something that all adults who work with and relate to children experience.
What hasn’t changed is my belief that children will have better childhoods, in which they can learn how to live in this wonderful, confusing world, when the adults in their lives attempt to see things from their perspective. I am more certain than ever that showing respect and empathy matters most in our relationships not only with children, but with everyone.
Some adults see children mainly as cute, innocent, amusing or as needing to be controlled or ‘tamed’. Some people speak to children in patronising tones. They don’t acknowledge their hard work, strong feelings and struggles. We know from research and experience that children are amazing learners, and active contributors to their own learning and experiences and those of others. They deserve our respect and thrive when the important adults in their lives view them as partners—as people who have the right to take an active role in their own lives.
I am grateful to Early Childhood Australia and Gowrie Victoria for publishing this work, and thrilled to work with Oslo Davis, who captures in pictures what’s difficult or impossible to capture in words.
Anne Stonehouse AM 2019