Just as critical race theory and other leftist propaganda were injected into classrooms disguised as harmless curriculum, it is becoming clear that “social and emotional learning” — which claims to equip children with the ability to manage emotions, feel empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships — is being used to push a collectivist and social justice-laden agenda.
But what if there were no nefarious agenda propelling the social and emotional learning movement? Is school-based social and emotional instruction the best way to nurture social and emotional wellness in children? Some programs have reported helpful outcomes. But is there an even better, more effective way to foster social and emotional wellness in children, and therefore in society at large?
Yes. It is this: Let children be raised and taught principally by their mothers and fathers while they are very young.
How Are Social and Emotional Skills Best Taught?
Psychoanalyst Erica Komisar says, “It is indisputable that the first three years [of life] present a crucial, formative window” for children’s emotional development. Similarly, psychologist Jordan Peterson says, “the research literature is quite clear” that there is a “tight window” in which proper social and emotional behavior must be instilled in children.
He writes, “If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends” and continue down the path of proper socialization and development. This is chilling when set alongside communist dictator Vladimir Lenin’s statement: “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
Research consistently shows that social and emotional well-being is most effectively instilled in people starting at the earliest ages by primary caregivers. One study says: “Children’s ability to regulate attention, emotion, and arousal develops in the context of their primary caregiving relationships during infancy and appears to be fundamental for the balance of the life span in organizing behavior, social relationships, and adaptive functioning.”
Social and emotional learning experts at the Economic Policy Institute write that crucial life skills, including “the ability to form strong and trusting relationships with others,” have their origins in the caretaking relationships a person experiences at the earliest ages.
Studies have further shown that mothers in particular help their children develop social and emotional skills such as having compassion for others, reading social cues, managing their emotions, forming relationships, and developing into socially competent beings.
Intervening at Younger and Younger Ages
Regardless of evidence showing strong outcomes for children who are cared for by attentive mothers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is increasing its push for “Early Childhood Education and Care,” which calls for “increased labour supply from mothers and massive state-funding for institutionalized daycare,” perhaps at the earliest ages.
Similarly, the 2016 U.N. “Education for Global Citizenship” plan stresses that educational measures must foster the development of the “whole person” by shaping children “emotionally, ethically, intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually.”
Seeing the windows of opportunity hanging wide open in infancy and toddlerhood, global education engineers are desperate to intervene in children’s lives at earlier and earlier ages.
Policymakers in Sweden have followed the advice of the U.N. and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in matters of raising new humans. In Sweden, publicly funded, nonparental care has expanded since the 1970s, and now “over 90 percent of all 18-month to 5-years-olds are in daycare.”
What has significant separation from their mothers in the first four years of their lives done for the social and emotional well-being of the children of Sweden? A government inquiry in 2006 found:
“Mental health among Swedish 15-year-olds declined faster from 1986 to 2002 than in eleven comparable European countries. For girls, rates of poor mental health tripled during this period, from nine to 30 percent….The increase happened in all groups of youth regardless of family situation, labour market situation or parental socioeconomic status.
Additionally, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s own assessments show that “Sweden has a high degree of disorder in its classrooms including tardiness, truancy, bad language, and disorderly behavior.”
While these troubling developments cannot be blamed solely on disassociation from parents, one is left to wonder what impact being removed from the care of their mothers in the early years of their lives has had on the population of Sweden.
Similarly, the Canadian province of Quebec introduced subsidized universal day care in the late 1990s. Roughly a decade later, a study showed “striking evidence” that children in the program were “worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness.”
A follow-up study showed many problems were worsening over time and that “boys in day care showed more hyperactivity and aggression, while girls showed more separation anxiety.” There was also a sharp increase in criminal behavior among those who participated in the Quebec program.
To suggest that schools or care centers can do the job of instilling social and emotional wellness in children just as well as mothers and fathers is an overconfident and even foolhardy claim.
That mothers and fathers are important to the social and emotional development of their children used to be common knowledge. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act on grounds that it would commit “the vast moral authority of the national Government to the side of communal approaches to childrearing over against the family-centered approach.” The administration said:
“We cannot and will not ignore the challenge to do more for America’s children in their all important years, but our response to this challenge must be…consciously designed to cement the family in its rightful position as the keystone of our civilization. Good public policy requires that we enhance rather than diminish both parental authority and parental involvement with children.”
A Better Way
Shuffling children off to schools and day care centers infused with an array of slick new social and emotional programs is not the best way to foster social and emotional wellness in children. There is a better, saner, more sustainable way. It is the way of family.
The best way to instill social and emotional skills in children is to foster a society that prioritizes the model in which children grow up in the same home with their married mother and father who love them and model social and emotional competency for them.
The more children are treated with kindness, responsiveness, and empathy in the earliest days of their lives, the more they will become kind, emotionally responsive, empathetic people. While school programs can lend support, character and competence are best forged in families by people who love each other.
Fathers — and particularly mothers — best foster the social and emotional well-being of their children. As the world careens ever further into disorder, depression, and self-destruction, perhaps we will realize — before it’s too late — how crucial mothers, fathers, and families are to the sustainability of the world.
Kimberly Ells, author of “The Invincible Family: Why the Global Campaign to Crush Motherhood and Fatherhood Can’t Win,” serves as a policy adviser for Family Watch International. Contact her at Kimberlyells@hotmail.com.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on The Daily Signal.
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