How Emotions Help Children Learn

It seems that feelings and mind are like two fighters in the ring: they are always fighting for supremacy and interfere with each other’s lives. But it’s not as simple as betting with the most promising sports betting odds. It turns out that emotions and intellect are not only on the same team, but the former also affect our decisions, behavior and learning. How does this work and what can we do about it?

What Is Emotional Intelligence
Psychologists identify five skills of emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness – understanding your strengths and weaknesses and characteristics. It’s also about being aware of your feelings and reactions.

Self-regulation is the ability to express your emotions in a socially acceptable way and commensurate with the situation. Sometimes this requires tweaking the internal settings of one’s reactions. For example, recognize your anger right in the moment, take a couple of breaths and exhales, and still give up the idea of throwing plates at the wall.

Motivation is the ability to set the direction of your activities in a way that makes you feel better. Motivated people usually understand what they want and why they do what they do.
Empathy is the ability to understand and empathize with other people’s feelings. This skill is a great help in communication: with loved ones, with superiors or employees, with a partner.
Social skills is a set of skills that help to find common ground with different people: to understand the context, to be respectful and sincere or bold and sarcastic.

Why It’s Important to Develop It
At first glance, the benefit of developing emotional intelligence seems only to be that the child will become the teacher’s pet. But in life, it works differently.

We live in a world where intelligence is overrated: we emphasize the development of children’s mental abilities, believing that they are the reason for life achievements. Compare the number of courses where children are taught languages, programming or, God forbid, mental arithmetic, and the number of centers where kids are told what to do if you are upset or worried about an exam, a first date, separation from your parents. The bias is obvious. And parents tell children about medieval knights, the structure of the universe, and verb-exceptions, rather than how to manage their emotions.

But research in recent years proves that familiarity with the emotional realm is far more beneficial to a child than knights from the darkness of the ages. And, surprisingly, the benefit is seen not only at the domestic level but also in academic success.

For example, in a Stanford University study, researchers observed the lives of child volunteers until their old age and found: IQ isn’t the most reliable indicator of success. People who earned science degrees, became outstanding professionals or managers were no smarter than those kids who remained sales managers until they retired. In fact, the secret of their success lies in their developed emotional intelligence: powerful motivation, willpower, persistence, the desire to succeed, the ability to postpone a small pleasure right now for a big reward later. And they demonstrated these qualities already at the age of 11.

What Are the Benefits for Learning
The development of emotional intelligence in children gives a serious head start in learning. self-regulation helps the child understand that in a “chair and table” environment he is not effective, because all the energy goes to maintaining immobility. And once he moves to the fitball and starts rocking, the division examples will go more briskly.

Self-regulation involves a whole set of skills, among which is flexibility of attention. If a child can switch attention from a computer game to a lecture about crustaceans and hold in memory the teacher’s instructions – it means that his concentration is all right. Simply put, a person with developed self-regulation can independently stop, think and make a meaningful choice before continuing to break daddy’s alarm clock. And this is an ability that many people would gladly trade a few IQ points for.

Emotional regulation skills can be taught. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, for example, has been implementing its program in schools for several years. On the one hand, it takes hours away from students that they could have devoted to traditional lessons. But on the other hand, research proves the program improves academic performance, attention management skills, and student efficiency. At the same time, children’s anxiety and bullying are reduced, and their grades in different subjects are better.
How to Teach This to Children
Create a safe environment – one where you feel supported by loved ones and aren’t afraid to share that you’re embarrassed about a broken mug or that you’re in love.

Ask about your child’s feelings and don’t ignore them. This will help him or her learn to recognize his or her emotions and use that information in school and in life. For example, if the child is worried about a test – turn on his favorite music and arrange a dance, at least for ten minutes. Emotions are released through the body and a good charge is ensured.

Expand the emotional vocabulary. Neurobiologists explain: it’s impossible to learn how to manage emotions if we don’t know what they are called.

The more shades of sadness we can name, the easier it is to recognize our own emotions. For example, sadness is similar to despondency, confusion, and despair, but they are different feelings and need to be handled differently.

To help the child master the emotional vocabulary, you can play with cards: different feelings are written on them, among which you need to find something that you are experiencing right now. You can also play word games, such as who will name more emotions to the letter “H.” Or just print out a wheel of emotions and mark which point each of you is in today.

Live Action Play. Role-playing is a great way to teach children interpersonal skills, empathy, emotional regulation, and much more. By dressing up as Darth Vader, a child can experience a variety of scenarios, experiment, and express himself in a safe environment.

Read fiction together. It’s hard to find a more effective trainer for developing empathy than a good fiction book. Reading helps children develop a “mental state model”-meaning that they learn to understand what the other person is experiencing. Moreover, the book combines other items on the list: it expands the vocabulary and gives room for imaginative play.

The more technology surrounds us, the more we trust machines, the more important it is to understand our living and human senses. Fortunately, feelings work for us, not against us. The main thing is to teach children how to handle them properly.

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