Children of all ages, from infancy to adolescence, are in the most crucial stages of developing their individual personalities and character traits. Their biggest example of behavior is seen in their parents or guardians, and the way these authority figures interact with the children and with one another greatly impacts the feelings and habits the children possess and develop. The effects that positivity, or at least the lack of negativity, have on school aged children are strong enough that many studies have been conducted on the subject, and some tips have been taken from these studies and outlined below.
The best example of behavior that children observe and emulate comes from their parents or guardians. In a study done at Vanderbilt University entitled “Parental Influence on the Emotional Development of Children”, the researchers determined that children with a draw toward negative behavior or episodes of anger are often products of hostile or neglectful parenting, which tends to cause additional behavioral issues as well. The handling of these behavioral issues is important to correct the behavior rather than worsen it. When children are experiencing negative emotions like anger it is important to acknowledge those feelings and not discount them no matter how trivial the matter may seem to an adult. To the child, it is a real and upsetting emotion. To make the child feel like they can express emotions, they must feel validated in feeling that way initially. Try to understand where the feeling is coming from to address it and talk about it. By not handling the situation by validating the feelings, children will feel like they are not permitted to feel that way, which leads to further frustration and anger, and they are less able to cope with stress, according to the Vanderbilt study.
Furthermore, a study conducted at New York University (NYU) entitled “Positive Emotions and Academic Achievement,” states that negative emotions in children have a narrowing effect on learning. While positive emotions broaden thoughts and encourage a more creative thought process, negativity narrows the mind and its functioning. Ways to combat negativity and the narrow mindedness associated with it are to increase positivity by developing a child’s understanding of and ability to take control of their own emotions. The Vanderbilt study offers this advice, “Parents can help their children develop into emotionally stable people by giving them a supportive environment, positive feedback, role models of healthy behavior and interactions, and someone to talk to about their emotional reactions to their experiences.
A child’s mental and emotional growth is inhibited by negative behaviors and interactions while a positive environment helps children to flourish in their mental and emotional capacities. The NYU study goes so far as to state, “The broadening effect of positive emotions can give students a sense of mindfulness, motivation, and gratification that prompts them to feel more comfortable in their environment and eliminates anxieties that may prevent them from being wholly engaged in a task.” Parents often consider the sleepless nights, diaper changes, and ever flowing bodily fluids before deciding to become parents in the first place, but the impact their behavior and caregiving exhibits on the child should be considered and discussed prior to the baby’s entry into the world.