[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]
As parents, we want our children to succeed in school and in life, and we worry about that. Navigating both is a solo endeavor, and requires us to help them learn to recognize, feel and honor their emotions without being controlled by them.
Life is full of moments that can overwhelm us, especially if we are little. Keeping it all together, whether you're a mama or a tot, means having the tools to properly react to events.
The key? Emotion regulation—the ability to understand and manage our behavior and reactions to feelings and things happening in our environment.
Research has found that your child's social skills in kindergarten are more important than academics when it comes to long-term success. Those social skills, like playing well with others, problem-solving, recognizing feelings, being helpful and controlling impulses require healthy emotion regulation.
Cognitive and behavioral scientists say that achievement is driven by both cognitive ability (measured by IQ and test scores) and non-cognitive characteristics, like emotion regulation.
Learning how to regulate emotions can facilitate the development of a positive student-teacher relationship, too—it's been found to increase cognitive processing and independent learning behavior. How? By helping us focus our attention on the tasks at hand and suppress inappropriate behavior in the classroom. This has led to more productivity and increased standardized early literacy and math achievement scores.
So the skills that build success on the playground also make our kids successful with teachers in the classroom, no matter how "smart" they are from an intellectual standpoint. Ensuring we teach awareness and mastery of our emotions at home can go a long way to provide our kids with both halves of the equation necessary for them to succeed when they are out of the home.
Bottom line: The emotion regulation that underscores social competence in kindergarten can be the foundation for *lifelong* success with peers, teachers and beyond.