Children and their parents must be introduced to social and emotional learning (SEL) early on in a child’s life. They have to be taught what is acceptable behavior in the different circumstances they are placed in. They have to be provided the knowledge needed to properly display the attitude and skills to understand and manage their emotions in every situation. Parents may believe their child’s behavior is only affecting them, but it is in fact affecting everyone in the world around them.

Every time I see a young child misbehaving, I wish that the oompa loompas from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory would magically appear and sing a little song. The child would then be sent to some sort of reprogramming room while their parents are punished for allowing their child to behave this way. This is what I truly wish would happen, but alas, it never does. Parents need to realize that they are doing a huge disservice to the community when they allow their children to act like animals without any repercussion.

Instead we all have to suffer through the kid’s meltdown as we shift from one foot to the other uncomfortably trying not to give the parent our own input on how to raise their child. As teachers, we all realize that if the parents fail to provide their own child manners and discipline, then it is left up to us. Trying to correct a young child’s behavior is difficult enough, but trying to correct it when the kid is in high school is even tougher.

Kids need to be taught to show empathy for others. They have to be able to make responsible decisions on their own even if no one is watching. Children need to behave appropriately to build quality relationships with others. If they are not acting as they should, people will eventually avoid them and stop trying to communicate with them. Unfortunately, this could continue on for the rest of their lives.

B. F. Skinner was a well-respected American psychologist and social philosopher that developed a theory of operant conditioning. In his theory, he looked at the socialization process a child goes through which lead to influence their future actions. If a parent or parenting figure approves of a child’s behavior with encouragement and reinforcement, then the behavior will continue to grow. Thus, if the adult figure immediately disapproves of a child’s behavior and strongly verbalizes that, then the behavior is less likely to resurface. I would also believe after my many years of teaching, if a parent says or does nothing after a child’s misappropriate behavior, the child will continue doing it until it drives those around them crazy.

Albert Bandura is regarded as one of the greatest psychologists still living. His social and emotional learning theory states that a child’s behavior is influenced greatly by observing both parents and peers, and whether they get rewarded or punished for certain behaviors. Most times, a child’s behavior is in direct correlation with how their own parents act. Just like the oompa loompas stated in their songs.

Benefits to Teaching Social and Emotional Learning Skills
In a 2014 study, academic success was displayed by those children that were taught social and emotional skills when younger. SEL students achieved 11 percentage points higher on achievement test scores. Because of their SEL development, they were having an easier time focusing and relaxing at school. This translated to more meaningful learning in the classroom.

Just as important, the study also showed that students who took part in SEL training are less disruptive and aggressive in the classroom and throughout the rest of the school. Perhaps the best news is that these students continue to display long-term benefits into adulthood with 10 percent fewer psychological, behavioral, and substance abuse problems.

Nobody wants to have someone in their life that cannot control themselves, regardless if they are ten years old or thirty. Positive social behavior produces quality relationships with parents, peers, teachers, and anyone they come in contact with.

Faced with the Alternative
If young children and their parents do not receive SEL development, then we are left to deal with the aftermath. This is exactly what we are doing right now. How many hours do we spend a week dealing with behavior management and discipline in the classroom? Even worse, when we contact the parents there is a lack of support there for the most part.

I’m not sure about you, but I am a bit tired of having to go to teaching workshops where the main thing they are training us on is how to defend ourselves in the classroom. What type of society do we live in where we are taught self-defense moves to use on our students? Perhaps investing early on in the classroom every year in SEL would be time well spent. Either that or we could all become black belts in karate.

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