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Teaching Social and Emotional Skills
Social and emotional skills form the foundation of success in life. Why such a bold statement? Think about it—how important is self-control, patience, perseverance, decision-making, and the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully? How crucial is the ability to manage anxiety, anger, discouragement, and other uncomfortable emotions? How essential are the skills required to make and keep friends? Is learning how to empathize important?
All of us learn most of these very important skills through what we call the “Three Es” of Love and Logic—Example, Experience, and Empathy.
Modeling is one of the most powerful tools for teaching social and emotional coping skills. A powerful form of modeling takes place when our kids overhear us talking about our values. Young people are almost always more interested in what they overhear than what we provide in the form of a lecture. Kids can learn great lessons about coping with tough emotions, temptations, and conflicts by overhearing us verbalize positive self-talk.
Mistakes are priceless learning opportunities. When we err and experience not-so-pleasant results, we learn the importance of making better choices in the future. Learning self-control, empathy for others, decision-making, and other valuable social and emotional skills requires some humbling experiences and plenty of encouraging ones also.
Great parents and educators provide emotional support while allowing kids to blow it when the price tag is small. Few things build a greater sense of optimism and confidence than experiencing setbacks and overcoming them.
Empathy teaches empathy. When children see us using it with others, and experience it directly from us, they are far more likely to pass it on. Social and emotional success requires that children learn how to demonstrate empathy toward others as well as toward themselves.
What about “Explaining” as a fourth E?
Explaining is a fourth skill that can be helpful under the right circumstances. Explaining is an important tool for teaching social, emotional, and academic skills. It works well when we are calm, the child is calm, and we realize that it’s a relatively small part of the teaching process, particularly with challenging youth.