What best predicts children’s academic success? Hint: It’s not I.Q. It’s being prepared socially and emotionally to learn.
This is a question parents in the past didn’t think much about. Today, however, many parents are concerned about their child’s school readiness. Why? One reason concerns what kindergartens want students to be able to do. Schools today expect children entering kindergarten to already know what used to be taught in the first grade. This includes social, emotional and behavioral skills. Unfortunately, many children are not ready.
What is School Readiness?
The term, “school readiness,” receives a lot of attention these days. What exactly does it mean? It means that when a child has developed certain emotional, behavioral and cognitive skills as well as the knowledge and attitudes considered necessary for progress in school, that child has a greater chance of academic success. In other words, a child’s preparedness for school predicts that child’s academic progress and success.
Aspects of School Readiness
When educators and psychologists talk about school readiness, they are focusing on:
- Language and literacy skills such as phonological awareness.
- Cognition and general knowledge such as concepts, early math and science awareness, and thinking skills.
- Social-emotional and behavioral development such as self-control and self-confidence.
- Approaches to learning.
- Physical well-being.
Can you guess which of the above best predicts how well a child will do in school? Try social-emotional and behavioral development (Ladd, G.W., Herald, S.L., & Andrews, R.R., 2006. Young Children’s Peer Relations and Social Competence).
Social-Emotional and Behavioral Readiness
Social-emotional and behavioral readiness may sound daunting but what it means is self-regulation. This consists of self-control, working memory, and the ability to adapt oneself to various situations. In fact, “The findings of numerous studies make it clear that self-regulation meaningfully predicts academic achievement,” (Ursache et al., www.psy.haifa.ad.il/~midrasha/uploads/). Unfortunately, many parents minimize the importance of regulatory skills in their children. They think that their child will learn these skills in school. By that time, however, it may be too late. Children need these skills in order to make good progress during their early years in school. Children who enter kindergarten without them will have difficulty learning. Once they fall behind, it will be a problem for them to catch up.
Some Self-Regulation Skills
What are the self-regulation skills children should have before entering kindergarten? Here are a few of the ones that psychologists and educators think essential. Children certainly need to be able to focus their attention on a task for a period of time appropriate to their age. They also need to be able to follow directions and inhibit their desire to do whatever they want. This includes controlling emotions such as anger or excessive exuberance. They should be able to play nicely with other children and to be aware of the feeling of others. They should also be able to verbally communicate their needs. They should show enthusiasm and curiosity for the activities going on around them.
It’s important to make sure that your child is one of the fortunate ones who have received the preparation necessary for school readiness. As parents, it’s up to us to give our children “a smarter beginning.”
What are some of your techniques for teaching your child self-regulatory skills? Please share your experiences with us.
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