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Researchers studied kindergarteners' behavior and followed up 19 years later. Here are the findings.

Every parent wants to see their kid get good grades in school. But now we know social success is just as important.

kindergarten, behavioral research, grades, testing
Image from Pixabay.

Big smiles in class at kindergarten.



Every parent wants to see their kid get good grades in school. But now we know social success is just as important.

From an early age, we're led to believe our grades and test scores are the key to everything — namely, going to college, getting a job, and finding that glittery path to lifelong happiness and prosperity.


It can be a little stressful.

But a study showed that when children learn to interact effectively with their peers and control their emotions, it can have an enormous impact on how their adult lives take shape. And according to the study, kids should be spending more time on these skills in school.

Nope, it's not hippie nonsense. It's science.

Kindergarten teachers evaluated the kids with a portion of something called the Social Competence Scale by rating statements like "The child is good at understanding other's feelings" on a handy "Not at all/A little/Moderately well/Well/Very well" scale.

The research team used these responses to give each kid a "social competency score," which they then stored in what I assume was a manila folder somewhere for 19 years, or until each kid was 25. At that point, they gathered some basic information about the now-grown-ups and did some fancy statistical stuff to see whether their early social skills held any predictive value.

Here's what they found.

1. Those good test scores we covet? They still matter, but maybe not for the reasons we thought.

Back To School GIF by IFC - Find & Share on GIPHY

education, research, competency, kids

Meeting high expectations...

Billy Madison GIF from Giphy

Traditional thinking says that if a kid gets good grades and test scores, he or she must be really smart, right? After all, there is a proven correlation between having a better GPA in high school and making more money later in life.

But what that test score doesn't tell you is how many times a kid worked with a study partner to crack a tough problem, or went to the teacher for extra help, or resisted the urge to watch TV instead of preparing for a test.

The researchers behind this project wrote, "Success in school involves both social-emotional and cognitive skills, because social interactions, attention, and self-control affect readiness for learning."

That's a fancy way of saying that while some kids may just be flat-out brilliant, most of them need more than just smarts to succeed. Maybe it wouldn't hurt spending a little more time in school teaching kids about the social half of the equation.

2. Skills like sharing and cooperating pay off later in life.

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friendship, movies, GPA, emotional maturity

Adam Sandler helps out a friend dealing with a stressful situations.

Billy Madison GIF from Giphy

We know we need to look beyond GPA and state-mandated testing to figure out which kids are on the right path. That's why the researchers zeroed in so heavily on that social competency score.

What they found probably isn't too surprising: Kids who related well to their peers, handled their emotions better, and were good at resolving problems went on to have more successful lives.

What's surprising is just how strong the correlation was.

An increase of a single point in social competency score showed a child would be 54% more likely to earn a high school diploma, twice as likely to graduate with a college degree, and 46% more likely to have a stable, full-time job at age 25.

The kids who were always stealing toys, breaking things, and having meltdowns? More likely to have run-ins with the law and substance abuse problems.

The study couldn't say for sure that strong or poor social skills directly cause any of these things. But we can say for sure that eating too much glue during arts and crafts definitely doesn't help.

3. Social behaviors can be learned and unlearned — meaning it's never too late to change.

social behavior, social skills, learning, positive social traits

Adam Sandler GIF of getting his groove on.

Billy Madison GIF from Giphy

The researchers called some of these pro-social behaviors like sharing and cooperating "malleable," or changeable.

Let's face it: Some kids are just never going to be rocket scientists. Turns out there are physical differences in our brains that make learning easier for some people than others. But settling disputes with peers? That's something kids (and adults) can always continue to improve on.

And guess what? For a lot of kids, these behaviors come from their parents. The more you're able to demonstrate positive social traits like warmth and empathy, the better off your kids will be.

So can we all agree to stop yelling at people when they take the parking spot we wanted?

But what does it all mean?

This study has definite limitations, which its researchers happily admit. While it did its best to control for as many environmental factors as possible, it ultimately leans pretty heavily on whether a teacher thought a kid was just "good" or "very good" at a given trait.

Still, the 19-year study paints a pretty clear picture: Pro-social behavior matters, even at a young age. And because it can be learned, it's a great "target for prevention or intervention efforts."

The bottom line? We need to do more than just teach kids information. We need to invest in teaching them how to relate to others and how to handle the things they're feeling inside.

Ignoring social skills in our curricula could have huge ramifications for our kids down the road.


This article originally appeared on 08.12.15

Teresa Kaye Newman thinks that Boomer parents were right about a few things.

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Newman believes she has credibility on the issue because she has 13 years of experience dealing with “hundreds and hundreds” of other people’s kids and has seen what happens when her so-called “Boomer” parenting principles aren’t implemented.

Of course, Newman is using some broad stereotypes in calling for a return to Boomer parenting ideas when many Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z parents share the same values. But, as someone who deals with children every day, she has the right to point out that today’s kids are entitled and spend too much time staring at screens.

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12 real stories that show why ruthless immigration laws are the wrong move.

Immigration policies that rip families apart are a travesty.


If there's ever been a particularly bad time to be an undocumented immigrant, it's right now.

President Donald Trump, who launched himself into the 2016 presidential race with his support for a multibillion-dollar border wall, has been cracking down on immigration as promised. In addition to tightening border security, he's pledged to remove 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants "immediately." And he appears to be keeping his word.

Deportation is nothing new, but Trump's plans are unprecedented. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It's a scary climate we're facing, but unfortunately, it's not just Trump and it's not just America. All over the world, people are more concerned with their countries' borders than seemingly ever before.Nations all over Europe, for example, are tightening up immigration rules and/or ramping up deportations themselves.

Amidst all the noise and rhetoric — every "radical Islamic terrorist" attack that gets waved about by politicians with something that eerily resembles pride, every horrific crime committed by white Americans that's met with deafening silence, every press conference faux pas — there are real people and real families being ripped apart in the name of patriotism.

Their stories are terrifying and heart-wrenching, but they're massively important.

1. A DREAMer gave a powerful speech about deportation. Moments later, she was arrested.

Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old, spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the importance of the DREAM Act, which aims to help immigrant children who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and graduated high school receive permanent legal status.

After the event, Vargas and a friend were pulled over and arrested by immigration agents.

2. A Sri Lankan student studying in North Wales was saved from deportation only by a last ditch effort hours before her flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, an electrical engineering student at Bangor University, was nearly sent back to Sri Lanka earlier this year. Despite having lived in the U.K. since she was 12 and being only three months shy of graduation, Satkunarajah was only allowed to stay after receiving an outpouring of community support.

3. A woman living in Great Britain was sent back to Singapore without being allowed to say goodbye to her husband and two children.

Irene Clennell had lived in the U.K. since 1988 but was abruptly sent back to Singapore after having her indefinite leave to remain revoked. Clennell is married and has two children with her husband but was not afforded the chance to see them one last time.

4. A mom living in Phoenix was sent back to Mexico. Her children would later face Trump as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' children were reportedly in attendance as Trump addressed Congress. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was sent back to Mexico in January this year for having a criminal record. Her crime? Working under the table to provide for her young children.

5. A beloved restaurant manager in a deep-red town in Illinois was arrested, and now the community is reeling.

Most of the people in West Frankfort, Illinois, voted for Trump. They never thought anything would happen to Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the friendly restaurant manager who seemed have done at least one kind deed for everyone in the community. Now, he's been detained by ICE and is currently waiting to find out if he'll be sent back to Mexico.

6. A Kuwaiti man and father of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the other hand, was miraculously spared from deportation because it would cause his family too much hardship.

Yousef Ajin has lived in the United States for 18 years with his wife, with whom he has four children. He reportedly met with immigration officers frequently, but on Jan. 30, 2017, he was suddenly detained.

In February, a judge granted a deportation waiver in order to spare Ajin's family from hardship. Many other immigrants aren't so lucky.

7. One man was caught trying to cross the border and returned to Tijuana. He appears to have jumped to his death shortly after.

The man, Guadalupe Olivas Valencia, had reportedly worked in the U.S. before to provide for his family back home before being deported multiple times. Caught trying to enter the country once again, he seemingly decided jumping from a bridge was his only option.

8. A single mother in California was sent back to Mexico, leaving her two young children in peril.

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, María Robles-Rodríguez was nabbed by U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico, leaving her twin 18-year-old daughters to fend for themselves.

9. Gay men being deported from Britain to Afghanistan are being told to pretend they're straight.

The British government's advice to gay men being sent home to Afghanistan, where they can be freely persecuted for their sexual orientation? Just don't act gay and everything will be fine!

Seriously.

10. Jose Escobar was detained after a routine meeting with immigration officers. He's a husband and father of three.

Escobar, who has lived in the United States for 16 years, had a deportation scare a few years back but was told he'd be safe if he checked in with immigration agents every year. Only this year, an agent reportedly told his wife, "We're just doing what President Trump wants us to do with the new rules."

Escobar will likely soon be deported.

11. A Mexican man living in Idaho was deported. His wife and the mother of his children could be next.

Tomas Copado ran his own auto body shop in Idaho Falls until he was sent back to Mexico earlier this year. His wife, for the sake of their children, recently had her own deportation deferred.

For now.

12. Some undocumented immigrants may be deported to Mexico even if they're not from there.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security plans to send anyone who crosses illegally over the southern border of the U.S. back to Mexico, even though they may be citizens of another country.

Needless to say, this is horrendous and possibly in violation of international law.

Statue of LibertyPhoto by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash

Every modern nation needs smart, empathetic paths to citizenship. Any immigration policy that tramples on human rights and rips families apart is a travesty.

It's time to bust the narrative that foreigners primarily come to our country — or any country — to do harm. They come mostly to find opportunity, to escape persecution, or to be with family.

If we can't come to see them as human beings rather than inanimate outsiders, finding the money to pay for a giant wall will be the very least of our problems.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.17

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