The most important lesson your child is NOT learning at school today

Should teaching our kids the ABCs of human emotion join maths, English, science and history as core subjects?

The answer is “yes,” according to a growing body of research that shows emotionally skilled people not only do better academically but enjoy better relationships and are less likely to develop unhealthy, risk-taking behaviours.

Here in Australia, educators are increasingly arguing in favour of adding meditation, aka “mindfulness,” to the national curriculum. It’s a bid to address what many observers are calling an epidemic of anxiety in our schools, believed to stem in part from children’s early immersion in the high-pressure world of social media.

Training for future employment?

And here’s another argument in favour of emotional education: the jobs our children will be competing for will be those requiring the so-called “soft skills” like interpersonal communication and cooperative behaviour: precisely those emotion-reading skills that machines will be unable to replace. 


Our children's immersion in social media is believed to be contributing to an epidemic of anxiety

The personal and social cost of emotional illiteracy is a further concern. Children who fail to understand how emotions work - particularly boys - often learn to hide negative feelings like shame under potentially anti-social emotional masks: anger, aggression and violence.

Cyberbullying prevention

Other studies have focused on the social benefits of teaching empathy - or the skill of experiencing imaginatively what another person is feeling. Fears that our children’s increasingly digital lives may be eroding the development of empathy have added urgency to such research.

Teaching empathy - assuming it can be taught - may be the single greatest weapon in the fight against cyberbullying, trolling and other forms of online abuse.

The RULER approach

One curriculum that has gained a following in US schools is the RULER program developed by researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The name is an acronym of the program’s goals:

Recognise emotions in oneself and others

Understand the causes and consequences of emotions

Label emotional experiences accurately

Express and

Regulate emotions in ways that promote growth.

The lessons of RULER are then integrated throughout all subject areas. For instance, if the emotional vocabulary word “elated” is discussed, it might be linked to the first Australian gold rush in 1851 in a social studies class or in science to Archimedes’ discovery of the displacement principle.

Teaching empathy - assuming it can be taught - may be the single greatest weapon in the fight against cyberbullying, trolling and other forms of online abuse.

Meditation and mindfulness

Teachers at Brisbane’s Brighton State School are teaching emotional awareness by embedding meditation into their daily lesson plans for kids as young as Year Four. Students spend 10 minutes after lunch listening to calming music and a guided meditation.


Did Archimedes really shout "Eureka!" in his bathtub upon discovering the law of buoyancy?  Possibly not - but the discovery would certainly have elated him :) 

In the 2019  Health Department budget, $2.5 million has been pledged to support the school-based mindfulness program Smiling Mind as part of the Federal Government's mental health and suicide prevention plan.

Observes Brighton teacher Sarah Mailey, “Some teachers will say, ‘Who has the time?’ But I always say, ‘Who doesn’t have the time?’ 

“Those are the social skills that really need to be explicitly taught.”



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Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, cyberbullying, emotions, emotional literacy

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