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Reading to Children Boosts Emotional Intelligence

By | Emotional Intelligence, Imagination | No Comments

Here’s a short article on the importance of reading, getting dad’s involved, and the benefits of reading to children.

Here are some of the quick take-aways:

“When dads get involved in reading at home, it immediately doubles the scaffolding in literacy.”

Parenting and positive psychology researcher Dr Justin Coulson said the benefits of reading included language development, increased empathy and emotional intelligence.

“There is something quite magical about sitting down with your little ones and reading them stories,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more. Books open our minds to the possibilities in life. Growing up in a small farming town, my local library was the gateway to the world. It literally (get the pun) set the stage for all the opportunities that would come my way later in life.

I never fully considered the impact reading has on empathy and its connection to emotional intelligence. But it completely makes sense how reading fosters the ability to step in someone’s shoes and view life from their vantage point.

In our world today, this is a critical skill for developing future leaders. Instilling a love for reading is not only about literacy, but the numerous life lessons and skills that make us more understanding, compassionate, and imaginative human beings.

Physical Activity In Schools Declining

By | Neuroscience | No Comments

Physical activity is key to emotional health and physical well-being. Also, students and adults alike can focus more readily when there is physical activity involved. The brain scan above shows the impact on the brain after just 20 minutes of walking.

In a recent article on Forbes.com, Lee Igel details how schools across the country are cutting out time at recess to make more time for academic studies. He outlines several issues with a decrease in play time and physical activity:

  1. Rates of childhood obesity have more than doubled in children during the past 30 years and about 18% of children in the U.S. are obese, according to both a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association;

  2. Countries that are internationally regarded as having the best education systems, such as Finland, schedule time for students to have unstructured breaks throughout the day;

  3. Activities—physical, emotional, cognitive, and social—that children regularly engage in during recess are essential to development and well-being, in childhood and throughout the lifespan.

  4. Kids eat better and healthier when they get recess.

When educating our students, let’s focus on providing a holistic educational model that takes into account the physiology and culture that creates the best learning outcomes and lifetime impact. As the MRI scan shows, a little physical activity can go a long way. Instead of decreasing recess, maybe we should be adding another one throughout the day.

Cute Kids

The ABCs of Emotional Intelligence

By | Emotional Intelligence, Uncategorized | No Comments

More and more evidence is coming out regarding the importance of social and emotional intelligence and its correlation to success later in life.

NPR’s Morning Edition has a great report on how schools are integrating programs starting as early as preschool and kindergarten.  The programs are expensive, but a critical investment in the future.

It’s pricey, but it does cost less per child than juvenile detention or rehab programs later on, according to Dodge. As a society, we spend a lot on remedial services — programs like PATHS are preventive, he says. “This is something that in the long run will save dollars.”

Listen to the full story here.


learning pyramid

Debunking the Learning Pyramid: What Does Work?

By | Learning Myths | No Comments

When it comes to fostering the learning of our children, what works? This popular learning pyramid is still used today even though it’s been thoroughly debunked by multiple sources.

“Education is an act of love and courage,”-Paulo Freire

What we do know from research is that active learning strategies work best and lecturing alone is a limited tool. Active learning involves the parallel processing of experiences (action) and thought (reflection). There are four main categories of active learning strategies that can overlap:

  1. Talking and Listening
    When your child talks with you about what they’re learning, answers a question, or explains a concept, it helps them organize the information and reinforces their learning.
  2. Writing
    Writing is an excellent tool especially for children who need time for introspection. Depending on the personality of your child, they may want to externally process through talking and listening first. Or, they may want to think through their ideas through writing before they talk.
  3. Reading
    Have your child provide a summary, or synopsis of what they read. This helps build the neural pathways to focus on the highlights and key points of what they read. By providing a summary, they internalize the information and actively process it.
  4. Reflecting
    Paolo Freire was a famous Brazilian educator who was one of the greatest proponents of active learning and reflection. For Freire, reflection creates a “critical consciousness” wherein learners become actors instead of passive learners, and are able to make their own decisions.

At home, you can practice active learning by involving the whole family, with a child one-on-one, by encouraging play dates and inviting friends over and engaging in fun, educational activities and games.

The University of Minnesota has great resources on basic active learning strategies. Get involved in your child’s development around values before you need to lecture them. Check out some of our free activities to help spark the conversations on what matters most.

5 Activities to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence Through Communication Skills

By | Emotional Intelligence | No Comments

Today, in the world of smart phones and social media, one’s ability to focus and connect will be their greatest asset now and into the foreseeable future.

The surefire way to teach your children emotional intelligence (or the lack of it) is to model it for them. But in addition to our own behavior, we can use exercises to increase not only our children’s emotional intelligence, but our own.

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Helping children increase their emotional intelligence through better self-awareness, self-esteem and by teaching them how to manage their emotional impulses not only leads to gains in behavioral improvement, but also enhances their academic achievement in school.

In an incredible comprehensive analysis of 668 studies on social and emotional learning programs at schools around the country, Dr. Roger Weissberg from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that students who participated in these programs:

  • 50%  increased their achievement scores
  • 38% increased their GPAs
  • 63% displayed more positive behaviors
  • And, schools documented a 28% decrease in misbehavior (including a reduction of suspensions by 44%)

Now, imagine how could enhanced emotional intelligence could improve your home life? More peaceful dinners, family trips, but more importantly, happier children. Here are some tips and activities to harness and cultivate emotionally intelligent communication with your kiddos:

Emotional Expressiveness—Adept at sending social signals with nonverbals and displays of emotion.

Activity: The Body Speaks— Dr. Robert Plutchich theorized that there are eight primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, trust, anticipation, and surprise. Make flashcards for each of these primary emotions and have your child nonverbally act out what each emotion looks like.

What is the posture like? How are they breathing? With practice, they can more adeptly move from the emotional state that they are in to the desired emotional state by focusing on the physiological cues. We can fake it until we become it as explained in Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED Talk on body language shapes who you are.

From there you can move to more complex emotions and contrast them. Here are some examples:

  • Pride vs. shame
  • Closeness vs. distance
  • Caution vs. rashness
  • Patience vs. anger
  • Relaxation vs. stress
  • Envy vs. goodwill

Emotional Sensitivity— Children with high emotional sensitivity are receptive and able to pick up subtle emotional cues from others. This means they are empathic to the feelings of others but may also be at risk to pick up the “emotional contagion” of others. Some researchers believe that Aspergers could be related to having an overwhelming overflow of empathy rather than the lack of it. For every child, being more emotionally intelligent will mean different things. In this example of emotional sensitivity, it may be about dialing back emotional sensitivity rather than dialing it up. The key is to have them play with the range and how it makes them feel.

Activity: Emotional Peek-A-Boo—This time, you model the different emotions through non-verbal cues and your child guesses which emotion it is that you’re demonstrating.

Social Sensitivity—The ability to listen and perceive social norms in communication. On the far end of the spectrum, a child could be extremely sensitive to social cues leading to anxiety and withdrawal from social situations.

Social Control—The ability to understand the social dynamics and to play an appropriate role within them.

Activity: What Would You Do If—Present different age appropriate situations and ask them, “What would you do if… someone stole your toy?” “What would you do if a friend was giving you the cold shoulder?” Etc.

Emotional Control—Ability to choose which emotions are shown to others. May appear to be cold.

After practicing the way these non-verbal cues work and look, in the moment of a melt-down, you can coach your child through their feelings and how do they ultimately want to feel? What do they need? By putting their emotions into words they activate an area of the brain that’s known as the brain’s braking system—the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

Let’s explore why this braking system is so important. In an adorable study by Walter Mischel conducted in 1972, children were challenged to sit in a chair with a marshmallow, and if they didn’t eat it, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Those that were able to use more self-control by not eating a delectable marshmallow for 15 minutes scored 200 points higher on their SATs in comparison to their counterparts who lacked the same restraint.

You can watch a reenactment of the study here.

All forms of self-control are regulated by the same neural pathways in the brain so by flexing these neural “muscles” you can increase self control in other ways, which can have an incredible impact on their success later in life.

Activity: When I…—Have your child write out different behaviors, the feelings attached to those behaviors and ultimately, what they need. This will help them understand the emotions they are expressing and how to identify what they actually want.

  1. When I…cry
  2. I am feeling…sad
  3. I need…a hug

This again, helps activate the brain’s braking system and you can talk through with your child when do we need to wait for what we want, and what makes it socially appropriate given the context of the scenario.

Social Expressiveness—The ability to hold engaging conversations with others using verbal communication skills. This is separate but related to extraversion.

Activity: Mommy/Daddy & Me Date— Take your child on a Mommy & Me and/or Daddy & Me date. Turn off your cell phone and any other digital devices. No multitasking. Just thirty minutes of dedicated conversation. Take turns asking questions and listening. What does it feel like when we are listened to? Why is listening important? What questions can we ask others to make them feel important and loved?

By taking a whole-family approach to emotional intelligence, and getting everyone involved in improving their communication, you can improve your well-being too. The greatest gift you can give to your children is your presence. So in this time of hectic holiday chaos, use these activities to invest in one of the most precious gifts you could give this holiday season: A fully present and engaged you.