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An Emotional Education

The ‘Essential’


By Diana Thompson

The Traditional Education

As parents we are very aware of the need for academic competence and physical development in our children. We struggle to get our kids into the best schools and to manage their dance, soccer and social schedules.

Academic and physical development are regularly measured, and no-doubt play a fundamental role in financial success and physical well being.

However, there are many more skills needed to achieve the level of happiness, competence and success we hope for our children. How can a parent cultivate and measure the less tangible skills of confidence, optimism, capable problem solving, emotional management and decision-making?

How can we help our children understand and manage the daily emotions which steer their decisions and behavior? We cannot shield our little loved ones from experiences of frustration, disappointment, fear, embarrassment and anger. We can only hope that experience at home, in school and with friends will teach our children the lessons they need to maneuver the pitfalls and thrive. We hope these things will just work themselves out, and often times they do. But clearly, it is not a guarantee.

The Emotional Education

Daniel Goleman, author of acclaimed, Emotional Intelligence, suggests that 80% of success comes from the ability to manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others.

At first glance, this seems to be an inflated number. But on deeper consideration, it makes perfect sense. A child who is resilient and quickly recovers from anger fear and frustration is much more prepared for a future which is entirely unpredictable. And, the ability to sensitively negotiate the emotions of others is highly valued in the workplace and at home.

Children learn about their emotions at an early age. An infant experiences and emotion and feels it deeply and completely. A mobile toddler propels emotions into physical motion. A verbal preschooler will add language to the display of feelings.

A child’s emotional personality has a profound affect on behavior, decisions, relationships, and self-esteem and success in academics.

Teachers attending an educator’s conference last May all agreed that a child’s ability to self-regulate emotions is critical for learning and success in school. A healthy emotional foundation is essential for good grades, but it may also be the critical ingredient for the highest levels of success in the office and on the ball field.

When to begin

A child’s self concept and emotional management habits are established at a surprisingly early age.

Brain research shows the critical time for establishing healthy emotional habits begins early.

"Brain development in the period from conception to six years sets a base for learning, behavior and health over the life cycle.... There are critical periods when a young child requires appropriate stimulation for the brain to establish the neural pathways for optimum development. Many of these critical periods are over or waning by the time a child is six years old. These critical periods include: binocular vision, emotional control, habitual ways of responding, language and literacy....(McCain & Mustard, Reversing the real brain drain, 1999)

How do we instill emotional competence in our youngsters? As children, we may have received little emotional education beyond the value based, “be nice” approach. Parents today are blessed with a multitude of resources to support healthy parenting and promote solid emotional competence from parenting courses to books. As you explore emotional intelligence resources, don't forget classes, books and programming from Dramatic Adventures. Sign up for our weekly email with tools and resources for you.

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