HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

The Role of Emotions in Learning

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By Priscilla L. Vail, M.A.T.

Reinforcing Positive Emotional Habits

Parents are the primary source of their children's emotional habits. These predict, prevent, or prepare for academic satisfaction just as they forge satisfactory or disappointing connections with the outside world. Children whose experiences have fostered optimism carry that habit with them into the school room.

Here are six principles of good practice to help parents reinforce positive emotions.

  1. Prompt motivation.
    Motivation comes from confidence which, in turn, is the harvest of competence. Break down new challenges into manageable components. From riding a bike to learning a foreign language, monitor progress, support effort, praise new competencies, and give the child a chance to showcase them.
  2. Spark curiosity.
    Curiosity thrives on opportunities to take chances on ideas and to enjoy the messiness of questions, as well as the tidiness of answers. It dies when imagination, humor, and risk are suspect.
  3. Nourish intellect, talent, and power.
    Find what your child does well and budget time, money, and psychological energies for the good stuff. Unsupported weaknesses ache, but unexercised talents itch.
  4. Encourage connections.
    Too much schooling happens in compartments and is stored in shoeboxes. Parents can counteract this by helping kids connect experiences with words, words with pictures, pictures with music, and by weaving ideas and happenings into a web of life.
  5. Monitor growth.
    Assemble a portfolio for each child. Ask the child to keep a journal (words or pictures). Record everyone's height on the side of a door frame every Thanksgiving. On Sunday evenings, before they go to bed, ask your children to say one thing they did this week for the first time. It doesn't need to be exotic or expensive: I walked two miles, I baked a cake, I wrote a poem about the Boston Red Sox. Do the same thing yourself. Be a model.
  6. Accept special considerations.
    Parents must provide support for weaknesses, laughter for the good of the soul, organizational help, and opportunities for development of talent and reinforcement of character.

Positive emotional habits, flowing from these principles of good practice will help kids meet challenge with optimism and vigor and respond to other people with openness and joy.

Comments from readers

"I agree with this article. Many people are the same way or maybe some are at times but maybe ok at other times. I definitely think there needs to be more research done about emotions. People are being misunderstood or considered emotional but what can we do to help? There's a little boy I know that when he gets upset about any little thing, he is unable to say what's wrong. He just cries and cries. Most children don't cry when the same thing happens to them or they cry but it's not as tense. He's unable to communicate his needs when he gets upset. I don't think this is normal because I don't see it in most children. I wish I knew more about this... "
"Just remember not to rob children of the opportunity to overcome fear and stress. Most people can learn to function properly while under the flight or fright syndrome, and thus be able to find the phone number for the police when there are intruders in the house."