By Dr. Andrea Weiner
Parents get bombarded fairly early on regarding the importance of having their child academically ready. A young child is barely out of diapers when reality hits parents on how to help them succeed academically. Suddenly the cart in the leading toy store is filled with educational toys that teach letters, numbers, reading, colors, shapes and whatever the newest, greatest way to get our children a "leg up" academically.
We are a society that strongly values intelligence which is usually viewed in terms of grades and achievement scores. Yet, our children's first connection to the world is a far cry from academics; they are born socially and emotionally relating to the world.
Social and emotional skills are not based on heredity traits like IQ and the amazing aspect about these critical skills is they can be developed to very high levels. These are the abilities that involve how to identify one's emotions and know how to express them appropriately, being able to be empathetic to other's points of view and situations, optimistic in the face of life challenges to better navigate difficult circumstances, and having the ability to relate to people in the social arena of day-to-day life.
Five benefits children with high social and emotional skills possess
1. They can actually boost academic performance. Research shows children with strong social/emotional skills increased their improvement on standard achievement tests by as much as 11 points (CASEL, 2009).
2. Schools that promoted social/emotional learning programs found their students had better school attendance and more positive attitudes about learning.
3. Children are more engaged in school and learn how to be good problem solvers. By understanding and knowing how to deal with their feelings appropriately, they can be more focused on their schoolwork.
4. The ability to relate to others using empathy, a quintessential social skill, and being caring enables children to develop better friendship skills. Being able to be a good friend attracts good friends into a child's life.
5. Employing optimistic thinking can help a child get through life-challenging difficulties and ward off stressful situations. By not using pessimistic thoughts of permanence like "This always happens to me" or "Nobody ever likes or plays with me!" they can change their approach to a much more positive, helpful one.
So to answer the question of which is better: social/emotional skills or academic skills, the answer is to have both. Being brilliant with facts and numbers alone will not help your child be the next future president of a Fortune 500 company or the President of this country.
You also need to have the power to know how to relate, listen, and to be an effective cooperative leader. We need to recognize the importance of both types of skills and equally engage our children with both to ensure positive outcomes academically and personally for lasting long-term success in life!
Dr. Andrea Weiner, is the founder of Emotionally Smart Beginnings, educational products teaching emotional and social skills for children and parents. She is the author of The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child and More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps That Help Children Love Themselves. Her books have made her a popular media guest, parent coach, lecturer and workshop leader. For tips on how to help your child develop life long skills based on social and emotional intelligence and well-being visit: www.drandie.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com