My daughter is officially in kindergarten this year. For those of you not in Queensland, that’s the year before formal school (why can’t we all just use the same terminology?) She is 4 years old.
As she’s my 3rd child, I’ve been less preoccupied with developmental milestones than I was with her brothers. I’ve come to realise kids develop in their own time, particularly when they are younger. Their little brains and bodies are learning all the time and sometimes these things don’t follow a textbook timeline.
However, now she is at an age where “school readiness” is the buzz word, I’ve been paying more attention. She can count to 20, sing the alphabet and recognise the letters in her name, along with most numbers. I was pretty happy with that.
Then I saw other kids in her class could write their names and draw easily identifiable pictures (who else hates guessing what the scribbles represent??) which got me a little worried.
Was she going to be ready for school in time? Should I be doing more? Was I putting her at a disadvantage because I hadn’t been doing flash cards and starting her on Reading Eggs?
Then I read about this research and took a chill pill.
It turns out that the greatest predictor of success in kindergarten students isn’t their handwriting, or their ability to draw like da Vinci or knowing what the square root of pi is.
Of course it isn’t.
The greatest predictor of success in our young children is their social-emotional skills.
The research*, which spanned nearly 20 years, found:
… statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.
Their ability to interact with each other, share, be kind and deal with conflict is what is going to help get them through life. Their emotional resilience and social skills will steer them on the right path and hopefully keep them out of jail. What more can a parent hope for?
As a society we get so hung up on grades and achievements, we often forget how important it is to raise good humans.
Instead of investing so much energy in teaching our young kids how to academically succeed, we should be teaching them key life skills first. Things like how to deal with emotions in healthy ways and developing their emotional intelligence. How to deal with friendship conflict. How to deal with bullying. How to be kind and inclusive of others.
It is these things, not advanced reading skills, that set our little people on the path to a prosperous and happy life.
Now that I think of it, I think my daughter will be just fine.
*Damon E. Jones, Mark Greenberg, Max Crowley, “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness”, American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 11 (November 1, 2015): pp. 2283-2290.