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NYT David Brooks Stresses Teaching Emotional Competence in Early Childhood Education

Dr. Donna Housman

I was delighted last week to read “The Building Blocks of Learning” by New York Times OpEd columnist David Brooks in which he noted that the most important education environment is the one that surrounds children in the first five years, “when the emotional foundations are being engraved,” and that the best programs are responsive, empathetic, and “guide them back to calmness.”

We are so thrilled that national discourse is at last recognizing not only the importance of early childhood education but also the importance of learning emotional competence at this phase of children’s development—long our primary focus here at Beginnings School.

To create a healthy society in which children become confident and successful contributors, we need to teach them at an early age how to identify, constructively express, manage, and effectively deal with their own emotions and those of others. These skills are critical in the development of self-regulation and should be taught from birth within the context of relationship in a nurturing, sensitive, and responsive environment. These emotional competencies are also pivotal in fostering empathy, kindness, and compassion—traits that today’s society sorely needs.

I commend Mr. Brooks for his perceptive observations and for bringing attention to this issue at a time when this country is finally willing to discuss the vital role of early education and its long-term impact on our children’s wellbeing and lifelong success.

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