Emotional development

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By Jenny-Lee van Biljon

Emotions develop through social experience, interaction and expression and these emotional bonds form the foundation for all relationships and interactions later in a child’s life (De Jager, 2009). A child who is emotionally neglected due to absence or ill-treatment by parents for example, will not have a sufficiently developed emotional brain (De Jager, 2009). The emotional brain does not only focus on emotions, but plays a vital role in learning.

The role of the emotional brain

The emotional brain’s critical time for development is between fourteen months and four years (De Jager, 2009). The emotional brain controls the areas in the brain responsible for appropriate responses, short-term and long-term memories, motivating behaviours, fine-motor and gross-motor movements and coordinating thoughts. A lack of emotional development would therefore have an impact on a child’s memory and their ability to remember what was learned (De Jager, 2009).

Emotions and learning

Research shows that emotions, which can be described as chemical reactions in the body, have an impact on a child’s concentration, memory and motivation (Pert, C.B as seen in De Jager, 2009). When a child’s emotions change, they cause a shift in attention and concentration. Therefore, a learner’s emotional state will determine what he/she pays attention to and if they can concentrate and remember what was said in class (De Jager, 2009). Emotions act as glue – the information a child receives in class through sight or hearing will store the knowledge and skills in the memory for later use. It will first store the information in the short-term memory if it is seen as relevant and then later move it to the long-term memory (De Jager, 2009).

Emotional development influences motivation for success

The emotional brain also plays an important role in motivation, because emotions are the driving force that initiate, maintain and direct behaviour. Insufficient emotional development will deprive a learner from the internal driving force which will motivate them to achieve their goals. This means that learners will lose interest, give up easily or rely on others to drive them towards goals (De Jager, 2009). Learners who feel abandoned, stupid or rejected, have suffered trauma, illness or hunger would experience a serious barrier to learning (De Jager, 2009).

Typical behaviour of learners who are emotionally underdeveloped would include the following (De Jager, 2009):

  • Highly emotional and self-centred: They cry easily and show rage or jealousy, finding it difficult to see things from others’ perspectives.
  • Daydreaming: When tasks are too difficult or boring they escape through daydreams to feel more in control or to boost their self-confidence.
  • Needy and dependent: They seek undivided attention and constantly need confirmation or encouragement from teachers.
  • Confusing fantasy and reality: They may tell lies or make up stories to make themselves seem more important or to justify their behaviour. Their intention is not necessarily deception, but to help them feel better about themselves.

Home programme for emotional development

Fortunately, the emotional quotient can be developed and the emotional barriers can be removed (De Jager, 2009). The following Mind Moves exercises would be recommended to help the child:

Power ON

Rubbing the indentation to the left of the breastbone will supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain and relieve staring which will help children who tend to daydream to focus again. This will literally switch on the brain and improve concentration without anxiety (De Jager, 2016).

Rise and Shine

By flinging open the arms, breathing slowly and hugging yourself, you can boost relaxation, rhythmic breathing and a sense of well-being (De Jager, 2016). If the parent simultaneously hugs the child from behind it can make the child feel more loved and accepted.

Mind Moves Massage

By allowing the parent to massage the child will bring gravitational security to the child and a positive sense of self (De Jager, 2016) making the child feel loved and safe.

Confidence Booster

By crossing the arms and feet in a hugging fashion and resting the tongue on the palate will calm the child’s body, heart and mind (De Jager, 2016).

Ensuring that parents spend quality time with their child, giving them one-on-one attention every day, and doing what the child loves, will also improve the child’s emotional experience and interaction.

De Jager, M. 2016. Mind Moves – moves that mend the mind. Johannesburg: Moves Institute.

De Jager, M. 2009. Mind Moves – removing barriers to learning. Welgemoed: Metz Press.


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