What can you do now to ensure that your children will one day succeed as adults? Could it be as simple as teaching them to be kind, cooperative and helpful to others?
Researchers at Penn State and Duke University began a study in 1991 in which they asked kindergarten teachers to evaluate the social and emotional skills of some 753 children.
Penn State’s Damon Jones, lead author of the 20 year study, had this reaction to their findings: “It was striking to see how sharing, cooperating and being kind at such a young age served as predictors of adult success.”
As he went on to explain, “For every one point change on the one to five scale, the kids doubled their chance of being successful.” In fact, the kids who scored on the higher end of the scale were four times more likely to graduate college, more likely to be employed full-time by age 26 and less likely to get in trouble with the law or be involved with drugs and alcohol.
The study would seem to strongly suggest that it’s not just academic achievement that is the key to success later on in life. And there are child psychotherapists like Fran Kalish who agree. She told Yahoo Parenting: “We live in an interdependent, socialized society. So having the social skills to navigate this world is critical. Parents today are so focused on academic and athletic achievement, but equally important is the ability to get along with others and show empathy and compassion.”
Kalish emphasizes the essential role parents play in developing these skills: “The most important thing moms and dads can do is model this behavior themselves. Be kind, cooperate, show compassion. Kids learn by the experience of watching their parents.”
Do you also think educators should be doing more to identify and help children who at an early age are exhibiting weaker social-emotional skills? We’d like to hear from you.