Let’s start the new year with a plan for success! We know that the acquisition of positive social and emotional skills by young children is a critical component of achievement. Children who enter school with skills such as self-regulation, empathy and persistence are the students who are most likely to do well in reading, math, science and other subjects. They are also the students who are happier and more confident in their ability to learn.
In his influential book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough wrote: “When Kindergarten teachers are surveyed about their students, they say that the biggest problem they face is not children who don’t know their letters and numbers; it is kids who don’t know how to manage their tempers or calm themselves down after a provocation.”
So what are some of the things we can do—as parents, educators and caregivers— to help our children gain these important skills?
Model Positive Behaviors
By “walking the talk” and modeling positive behaviors, we can draw attention to the behaviors that we want our children to exhibit. We can encourage conversations around social and emotional skills. We can read children’s books that demonstrate these skills, and through dramatic play, we can practice the skills together.
Many consider the ability to self-regulate among the most important skills a child needs to master. In Teaching and Learning in Preschool authors Claire Venn and Monica Dacy Jahn note, “Self-regulation is a life skill that traverses all the developmental domains, promoting social relationships, self-control, a positive work-ethic-and systematic problem-solving abilities.” We can help children learn how to control and re-direct their own emotions.
Being persistent involves wanting to complete a task, working through difficulties, and making it to the end. When children enter an activity with a sense of motivation, they stay focused and become more deeply involved in a task: a “virtuous circle.”
Let’s stay persistent throughout the school year, working together to develop strategies that help our children acquire good social and emotional skill! We can do it!
* I See I Learn at School, a comprehensive early childhood program from Pearson Education, features Stuart J. Murphy’s I See I Learn books, along with teacher’s guides, videos, take-home activities and more!