Advertising aimed at children is so prevalent in our lives that many people think it’s okay. But child-development experts for years have said that ads on kids' TV shows, for example, constitute an unfair assault on impressionable minds that aren’t old enough to appraise the sales pitch.

"Yes, we have no advertising"  Excerpt from Raffi's article in
the Globe and Mail.


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Connect the dots

Stanley Greenspan of Washington DC, one of the world’s leading child psychiatrists, is asking a compelling question: What type of individual will populate the future?

Will future generations be made up of people who are reflective and thoughtful, warm and caring, capable parents, resourceful, and able to work co–operatively towards consensus solutions? Or will future generations be made up of people who are impulsive, self–centered, polarized in all–or–nothing views, prone to passivity, helplessness and violence? What type of individual will populate the future?

The choices we make now as a society—and as a global web of societies—will determine who will walk our streets in the future.

Today I want to take you forward to the year 2020, 18 years from now. A lot can happen in 18 years: a generation of children comes of voting age and today’s young adults gain positions of power and influence. I’d like to play a game with you, called Connect the Dots, and I hope you play along.

Close your eyes for a moment.

Take a quiet breath.

We’re now in the year 2020,

you’re feeling pretty good, the anti–aging medicine is kicking in.

The Vancouver Canucks dynasty is still the talk of the sports world: the Canucks having won the Stanley Cup 15 out of the last 18 years.

Pretend that we are at a gathering called The State of the Child. A conference first proposed in 2010, when Canada’s Children’s Commissioner called for an integrated look at the issues affecting children’s emotional, physical and cognitive development.

Admittedly, I’m presenting an optimistic scenario. I’m saying that in the year 2020, the global human family has survived the terrorist threat, a prolonged period of wars, perhaps, the spread of AIDs, and a restructuring of the global economy. Are you with me so far?

And I’m projecting that at age 72, I’m a healthy troubadour—still singing, and still making puns, still enjoying the good life on Mayne Island.

What I want to highlight today is that by 2020, something remarkable has happened worldwide. A compelling idea has spread like a virus very quickly to all continents.

Through the dedicated work over two decades by international coalitions of child health & early childhood development professionals—including Canadians Fraser Mustard, Clyde Hertzman, and Mary Gordon—the world’s diverse cultures have found a unifying principle. A principle based on the fact that in every culture in the world, the very young have the same irreducible needs. Every girl, every boy, in every culture, needs the same things: respectful love, clean air water and food, adequate shelter, and a caring and supportive environment.

In 2020, the idea of Child honouring—respecting the universal needs of all children—has become a central organizing principle of society.

We know that a child’s psyche is a container for life: that the character and tone of a person’s emotional life are set very early; that early childhood is the gateway to humane being and so, the prosperity of societies depends on the prosperity of its youngest citizens. It’s simple: a strong house needs a firm foundation.

Increasingly, we are connecting the dots between health and culture, environment and economy. And all the dots lead back to children.

We know that societal problems are systemic, they don’t exist in isolation—everything is interconnected. And with people, everything begins with the child.

We now realize that the countries of the world are also “nations of children” and that communities must regard children as essential members, whom we have a moral obligation to support—and that means respect, respect for the child’s psychological, cultural, and biospheric domains.

In the year 2020, we understand that no belief system is more important than a young child’s need to believe in the love of family and community.

All our provinces have Ministries of Early Childhood. Over the years, our elected leaders have realized that investments in early childhood pay later dividends in health, education, and productivity.

In the year 2020, the phrase “children first” is more than a political slogan. It’s become second nature to policy makers—for all the right reasons. Inventors, architects and planners are now trained to “design with the child in mind.” We, as a society, live the understanding that the real wealth of a nation is found in the developmental health and participation of its growing young.

Let me get personal with you for a moment. Do you remember how it felt to be very little? When you were young, didn’t you want to be seen and heard? Don’t you remember saying, “look at me, mommy, look at me?” Didn’t you crave understanding, and people to play with?

Young children are no different now. They look up to us. They need us to see and hear them as they are—to see their creative intelligence, to hear their voices, and to appreciate the importance of their play.

Through the advance of child honouring worldwide, in 2020, on every continent, child’s play is known for the marvel it is: play is the everyday work of the growing child. Young children are 100% employed. The young of the human animal—like the young of other animals—works at learning adult behaviour by playing, pretending and imitating.

We understand that for a young child’s sense of belonging, it’s crucial to connect with the wonders of nature, to learn in the real world, and to have the time to imagine one’s purpose in this world. We realize that it’s not consumer confidence but SELF–confidence that gives the most to society.

We take to heart two vital principles in infant development. The first is, “anxiety cripples intelligence,” and the second, “love is the only emotion that expands intelligence.”

We’re connecting the dots…

By really getting it, that early years experience drives a lifetime of behavior, we have gained a new way of looking at life. We’re making the best investments in building social capital by supporting children’s emotional intelligence in the early years. That’s why we’re committed to play–based learning for the very young, with a strong emphasis on the arts, especially music.

In 2020, society sees the growing child as a lens through which to re–order priorities.

Spurred by the finding that breast milk itself has become among the most contaminated foods on Earth, countries are signing a “Mother’s Milk Pledge” to reduce accumulated poisons. We’re eliminating the production of Dioxin, for example, by changing a number of industrial processes, including the bleaching of pulp for paper.

The weight of evidence on how toxic compounds affect serious developmental problems has finally brought Industry around. After years of resistance, Industry is now bursting with innovation that seeks to replace the most dangerous compounds with benign alternatives. A strengthened United Nations has called for a “child–honouring protocol for commerce,” by which new chemicals must be proven safe before entering the marketplace.

We have embraced the wisdom of the precautionary principle in safeguarding young children, our most vulnerable citizens.

By our actions, we are showing what we know: in nurturing the young, we can’t ignore environmental threats to their health. The basic human right of children to breathe, to play and learn in non–toxic environments is now respected. Legislation vigorously upholds this most fundamental of human rights.

We’ve made huge strides forward. And our coming of age is also reflected in a new corporate climate.

Led by the Scandinavian example, many countries have tough laws that protect children from corporate exploitation. The widespread ban on advertising to children is a key part of this initiative.

In the year 2020, business celebrates a new era of triple–bottom–line accounting. Corporate tax returns and annual reports reflect a “pay as you go” ethic that’s become a hallmark of responsible commerce. In our restructured full–cost economy, the cost of goods includes social and environmental costs, and that’s a reality check: it stimulates smart growth, and gives constructive enterprise a competitive advantage. It spurs the sustainable growth that communities want. Companies are outdoing each other in their role as good corporate citizens.

It’s an exciting time to be alive.

The 2020 Vancouver Convention on Ethical Business is all the rage.

The first hydrogen–powered ships start their runs for BC Ferries.

And there’s more good news:

Free of that old left–wing, right–wing politics, we’re framing a social safety net within the fabric of everyday life, not as an add–on. As our institutions reflect our highest aspirations, the values of caring and providing are highly regarded. We give meaning to the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”

And today, we celebrate what we finally learned around the year 2005, that one of the best ways to enrich the future of our society is by creating Early Learning Centers in every neighbourhood, places that provide parental support as well as developmentally rich childcare.

Scandinavia and France look to us for leadership, now that our child poverty problem—which had doubled between 1989 and 2002—has been largely overcome, now that the gap between rich and poor has been substantially reduced. We are grateful to the politicians who finally connected the dots between investment in head starts for all kids, and a sustainable economy.

And there’s startling news in politics. In Canada, we have seen the re–election of the Quality of Life party on the strength of its historic “triple bottom line” platform first unveiled in 2016:

In a victory speech, our Prime Minister repeated her strong conviction that “tomorrow’s children must not be burdened with the social and environmental costs of the business we conduct today.” The Prime Minister went on to say, “the developmental health needs of all children make it clear that in order to build capacity in our communities, the very young need more than a level playing field. They need priority protection and consideration in all our deliberations.”

In 2020, we measure societal progress with a Quality of Life index whose key indicator is the state of our children.

We know we’re on the child–honouring path when investment per child in pre–school years equals that of school years. When the number of “at risk” kids 0–6 continues to drop. When hitting children is unacceptable, and against the law in most countries and by the drop in child sexual abuse and in teen suicides

We know by the excellence in affordable, accessible childcare. By the remarkable drop in Ritalin prescriptions. By the drop in violent crime. By our pesticide–free playgrounds, schools and homes. By the drop in the number of kids with asthma and by the clean air in our cities.

The year 2020 becomes a benchmark for our hopes of a restorative society, one that seeks to renew itself by taking a renewed interest in its youngest citizens, one that expresses a profound love for its children.

The child–honouring values in evidence are fully in the spirit of what cultural historian Riane Eisler calls a partnership society: a culture in which the dominance habits of the past give way to the reciprocal power of partnership. A celebration of power not as force, but power as ability, as potential, as intelligence, as empathy.

By 2020 we have begun to shape a world that secures its futures, by trading in the immeasurable currencies—a world that honours its young. In this country and beyond, adults are learning a new way of seeing children. We feel the heartbeat of a new covenant with our young.

And Canadians, as a caring society, have made a solemn promise: to show children, by our actions, how much we love them.

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