Child Development and Learning

Child Development and Learning

Maurice Elias begins his book, The Educator’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence, by summarizing what parents and community leaders have as goals of what they want children to know and be able to do when they leave school. He states, “This defines what we want our schools to teach.” (Elias, 2006). He offers the following list of what we want young people to be able to do when they leave school.

· Be fully literate and able to benefit from and make use of the power of written and spoken language, in various forms and media;

· Understand mathematics and science at levels that will prepare them for the world of the future and strengthen their ability to think critically, carefully and creatively;

· Take responsibility for their personal health and well being;

· Develop effective social relationships, such as learning how to work in groups and how to understand and relate to others from different cultures and backgrounds;

· Be caring individuals with concern and respect for others;

· Understand how their society works and be prepared to take on the roles that are necessary for future progress;

· Develop good character and make sound moral decisions.

All of these are aspects of what some refer to as the “education of the whole child.”

To the “education of the whole child” concept, one could add Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” which must systematically be met. Maslow presents the argument that since “inner nature is good or neutral, rather than bad, it is best to bring it out and to encourage it rather than suppress it.” He continues, “if this essential core of the person is denied or suppressed, he gets sick, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes immediately and sometimes later. All three of the psychologists cited in this paper predict a very negative consequence if a child does not mature
in the correct chronological sequence. There is consensus among these three psychologists that if a person does not have his needs met (Elias, 2006), if his essential core is denied or repressed (Maslow, 1968), if all of the aspects of what is the education of the whole child aren’t learned, if all eight of the stages aren’t successfully completed correctly and in the proper order, the person can expect to readdress what was missed as problems in the future (Erickson, 1980).
There are long lists of skills and capabilities which educators and psychologists agree children should develop. Here are three skills or personal capabilities that contribute to positive development in a wide range of life’s social roles and responsibilities:

· Creativity: thinking of, sharing and playing with new or unusual ideas

· Positive Self Image: valuing oneself and one’s achievements

· Problem Solving: working towards a solution by analyzing a problem and forming strategies

Two qualities of a family environment that contribute to development of the skills mentioned above may include the following possibilities. A family can make it a practice to introduce new opportunities of play, study or work and in that way address all three developmental issues. By carefully selecting the opportunity for creativity in thinking you will be teaching the person successful problem solving with the added benefit of building a more positive self image.

Another quality a family may practice is to have a tolerant, non-judgmental attitude. They may accomplish this by allowing their children to experiment and fail without criticism. This would encourage the child to try something new. While attempting something new the child is

working on problem solving. To do this in an accepting, encouraging environment creates a positive cycle of the three personal capabilities being discussed.

One trait a family may possess that could inhibit the development of the above listed skills or capabilities is being judgmental. This will have a negative effect on anyone in regards to trying new, creative thinking. The negative effect on creative thinking, will influence and hinder development of a strong positive self-image, and will have a negative effect on problem solving as well.

A classroom is a perfect place to nurture the development of creative thinking, positive self image and problem solving. When the classroom can provide opportunities for success the student will be much more open to positive risk taking which often accompanies creative thinking. Assignments encouraging new study techniques such as team work will broaden the student’s perspective while encouraging problem solving. Successful completion not only verifies that new opportunities may be safely explored but also gives a sense of pride and accomplishment.

On the other hand, if the classroom is mismanaged so that there is no time for stimulating learning activities or projects, the student will miss the opportunities a well managed classroom can bring. Proper teacher preparation will directly influence this scenario.


Elias, Maurice, (2006). The Educator’s guide to emotional learning. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press. 4-5

Erikson, Erik, (1994). Identity and the life cycle. New York. W. W. Norton and company, Inc. 5-6

Maslow, Abraham. (1980). Toward a psychology of being. New York. W W Norton and company. 190- 213