Most people understand that the early years are an important time in a child’s development, but recent research is painting a startling picture of how the experiences and interactions that occur from conception to age six drastically affect the trajectory of children’s lives, their success in school and who they will become as adults.
Evidence is mounting that we arrive into the world with a genetically pre-set timetable for how we go about growing that remaining 60% of our brains – complete with sensitive or critical periods when specific parts of the brain are primed to grow and develop.
The impact on children of [emotionally adept] parenting is extraordinarily sweeping …beyond [a better relationship with their parents], these children also are better at handling their own emotions, are more effectively at soothing themselves when upset, and get upset less often. The children are also more relaxed biologically with lower levels of stress hormones and other physiological indicators of emotional arousal. Other advantages are social: these children are more popular with and are better-liked by their peers, and are seen by their teachers as more socially skilled. Their parents and teachers alike rate these children as having fewer behavioural problems such as rudeness or aggressiveness. Finally, the benefits are cognitive; these children can pay attention better, and so are more effective learners. Holding IQ constant, the five-year-olds whose parents were good coaches had higher achievement scores in math and reading when they reached third grade (a powerful argument for teaching emotional skills to help prepare children for learning as well as life). Thus the payoff for children whose parents are emotionally adept is a surprising – almost astounding – range of advantages across, and beyond, the spectrum of emotional intelligence.
-Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence
Schools alone cannot do the job. The burden of education must be shared by parents, neighbours, the traditional and digital media, the church, and other communal institutions.
One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That’s precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it’s not the message most parents intend to send.
A child’s readiness for school depends on the most basic of all knowledge, how to learn. A [recent] report lists the seven key ingredients of this crucial capacity – all related to emotional intelligence: confidence, curiousity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate and cooperativeness.
Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence
Education includes schooling, but it is by no means restricted to it.
Parenting in a society without television, toy stores, gas-powered lawn mowers, and sugar-coated cereals was easier by far. Technology has removed parent's need for children's help, the traditional means by which parents transmitted across generations the importance of work, and has left parents to guide their children as best they can through a maze of continuously available entertainment.
Betty Hart and Todd Risley, Authors of
Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children