The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) created a Code of Ethical Conduct to help early childhood educators understand their ethical responsibilities to children, families, coworkers, and the community.
The Code can be used to help teachers and directors make decisions concerning ethical dilemmas. Maybe you’re asking, “What is an ethical dilemma?” An ethical dilemma is a situation where a choice needs to be made between two options, both of which may be correct but are not in agreement with each other.
Here are some common ethical dilemmas that you may face in an early childhood setting:
- A coworker is gossiping about a family or another coworker.
- Parents are complaining about a child’s behavior towards their child.
- You spend so much time dealing with one child because of their behavior that you feel like the other children aren’t getting the attention they deserve.
- A parent asks you to keep her child from participating in outdoor play or other messy activities.
- A parent requests that his child no longer takes a nap at the center.
So, what do you do when you’re faced with an ethical dilemma? The Code has some guidance for you. Here are some starting points for you to use when figuring out how to deal with the dilemmas listed above. Each item listed below is an Ideal (“I-”) or Principle (“P-”) taken directly from the Code*. Ideals and Principles have been shortened by the author as indicated by ellipses (…); the shortened version does not change the overall meaning, but it is a good idea to read the complete Ideal and/or Principle when making your own decisions. There are other Ideals and Principles in the Code that can apply to each situation as well.
Gossip and other confidentiality issues:
P-2.13 – “We shall maintain confidentiality and shall respect the family’s right to privacy, refraining from disclosure of confidential information and intrusion into family life…”
P-3A.2 – “When we have concerns about the professional behavior of a coworker, we shall first let that person know of our concern…”
Concerns about a child’s behavior:
P-1.3 – “We shall not participate in any practices that discriminate against children by… excluding them from programs or activities.”
P-1.7 – “We shall strive to… make individualized adaptations in teaching strategies… If after such efforts have been exhausted… we shall collaborate with the child’s family and appropriate specialists to determine… the placement option(s) most likely to ensure the child’s success.”
Parent requests that are different from program practices:
I-1.2 – “To base program practices upon current knowledge and research in the field of early childhood education…”
I-1.5 – “To create and maintain safe and healthy settings that foster children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development…”
I-2.5 – To respect the dignity and preferences of each family…”
P-2.2 – “We shall inform families of program philosophy… and explain why we teach as we do.”
P-2.4 – “We shall ensure that the family is involved in significant decisions affecting their child.”
It’s important that educators are committed to exercising ethical behavior in the workplace. Ethical dilemmas can arise in any early childhood setting. When early learning providers embrace the Ideals and Principles in the Code, they can make decisions with confidence that they’re placing the needs of the children first.
How have you used the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct to guide your practice? Feel free to post an answer in the “Comment” section.
Please use the following link to access the entire Code:
*Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the “right” answers for your program. It’s important to remember that ultimately you need to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children and families in your program. The Code is simply a guide to help you to make ethical decisions.