“I hate you!” That’s what my granddaughter told her mother recently. “You’re the worst Mom in the whole world, and I hate you.” Hurtful?—Yes. Disrespectful?—Absolutely, and both these points were addressed once my granddaughter was able to calm down from her highly, emotionally-unregulated state of mind. The outburst was caused by a misunderstanding between my granddaughter, her classroom teacher and her mother. Cecilia was supposed to go into the after-school program while her mother volunteered to work the “drive-line” during after-school pick up time. Instead, Cecilia was directed to the drive line for pick-up as was her typical daily routine. When her mother did not arrive, Cecilia remained in the drive-line alone and was then sent to wait in the office. She became scared, yet held herself together until she was reunited with her mom. When they got in the car, Cecilia, age seven, lost control of her emotions.
Self-regulation is a learning process. Until a child has the ability to self-regulate, cognitive learning cannot take place. Many parents do not realize this, believing instead that a child’s cognitive knowledge is the key to success for a child entering elementary school. In reality, a child who enters kindergarten knowing how to count, write their name and recite the alphabet but is unable to follow directions, maintain composure and control his or her actions will probably not be successful academically. Therefore, social-emotional development is AT LEAST as important as cognitive development.
Cecilia is an emotional child. She has always been an emotional child. Fortunately, she is very mature in many other ways and is able to self-regulate most of the time, though she is still learning and will continue to learn this skill throughout her childhood. She will need to depend on the help and support of the adults around her to achieve this goal.
Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.