“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle
Childhood is a special time of dynamic learning. It is here that behaviors and attitudes are developed that shape the individual. If we wish to build better adults we need to focus on what is experienced during childhood. It is difficult to affect the family and what is learned at home, but we can affect what is learned in school. So, to build a better adult we need to build a better childhood education.
Childhood education rightly focuses on building knowledge and understanding of academic importance. But there is little effort to develop cognitive, emotional, and social skills. This is unfortunate as these skills are important unto themselves’ and also turn out to be very important in developing academic skills. In addition, it’s been shown that cognitive, emotional, and social skills in childhood predict health, financial stability, and educational attainment into adulthood.
Elementary school is a wonderful time to develop these skills. In today’s Research News article “Enhancing Cognitive and Social–Emotional Development Through a Simple-to-Administer Mindfulness-Based School Program for Elementary School Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
Schonert-Reichl and colleagues test the effectiveness of a social and emotional learning with mindfulness program in 4th and 5th grade students. The results were remarkable, with the mindfulness training producing improvement in a wide array of academic, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical measures.
Mindfulness training improved executive function, improving the children’s working memory, and cognitive flexibility. In addition they showed improved ability to control their behavior. The heightened inhibitory control led to the better control of their emotions as evidenced by a decrease in aggression. If that was not enough improved executive function and control resulted in the mindfulness trained children performing better in the only academic subject measured, math, achieving higher grades.
The mindfulness trained children showed greater social and emotional maturity with increased levels of empathy, perspective-taking, optimism, emotional control, school self-concept, and mindfulness and significantly lower depressive symptoms. In addition the other children rated the mindfulness trained children as higher in sharing, trustworthiness, helpfulness, taking others’ views, and were liked more, and lower aggressive behavior and were less likely to start a fight.
These results are nothing short of spectacular. A simple, easy to administer program to elementary school children produced major improvements in every aspect of the child’s performance in school, from academic, to social, to emotional. It remains to be seen how lasting these effects are but regardless, even if they only occur in conjunction with mindfulness training they indicate that this kind of training is extraordinarily important in promotion the child’s school performance and well-being.
So train your children in mindfulness and produce a better adult.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein