PARENTING, TEACHING, AND TMS Social-Emotional Learning I found some interesting thoughts in an article by Jennifer Kahn in the September 11 issue of the New York Times titled “Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?” She teaches graduate school journalism at University of California, Berkeley. Kahn doesn’t mention TMS directly, but her article has a lot to do with how our emotions affect our unconscious mind to give us emotional or physical pain. The article begins by telling about a California kindergarten teacher, James Wade, who asked his class of 5-year-olds to sit on the floor Indian-style and think about “anything happening at home, or at school, that’s a problem, that you want to share.” None of the wee ones replied, so he asked it again, and a boy named Jimmy raised his hand, then said while trying to hold back tears, “My mom does not like me.” Wade asked why he thought that, and Jimmy replied, “She says I play too much on her i-Phone. She screams me out every day about that.” That prompted Wade to ask the class, “Have any of your mommies or daddies ever yelled at you?” Half the children raised their hands, and Wade thought he had a solution. “Maybe we can help,” he said, and turned to a tiny girl and asked what she felt like when she was yelled at home. “Sad,’ the girl said, crestfallen. Wade asked, “And what did you do? What words did you use?” “I said, ‘Mommy, I don’t like to hear you scream at me.’ ” Wade then asked the class, “What do you think? Does that sound like a good thing to say if your mommy or daddy yells at you?” The children all nodded their heads up and down, agreeing that was a good thing to say. He then clapped his hands once, then said, “Okay, let’s practice. Play like I’m your mommy.” He sat down in the center of the circle and gave Jimmy a small teddy bear to stand in for the iPhone. Then Wade hollered at him, “Why are you doing that, Jimmy? Why, Jimmy?” The other children rocked back and forth, laughing. Several of them began to crawl toward Jimmy, to comfort him. Jimmy was still almost in tears, but began to giggle. Wade then held up a finger for the class to wait a moment. “Now, we talked about this,” he said. “What can Jimmy do?” Jimmy sat up straight and said firmly, as if talking to his mother, “Mommy, I don’t like it when you scream at me.” “Good,” Wade said. “And maybe your mommy will say: ‘I’m sorry, Jimmy, I had to go somewhere in a hurry, and I got a little mad. I’m sorry.’ ” Jimmy solemnly accepted the apology, feeling a lot better, then beamed as he shook Wade’s hand. Wade’s experiment last spring and now used schoolwide at Garfield Elementary in Oakland, Calif., is part of a strategy known as social-emotional learning, based on the idea that emotional skills are crucial to academic performance. Those of us who know about TMS and how emotions can cause physical and emotional pain know that social-emotional learning is also crucial to our good health. “Something we now know, from doing dozens of studies, is that emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn,” Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at YaleUniversity, told a crowd of educators at a conference last June. “They affect our attention and our memory. If you’re very anxious about something, or agitated, how well can you focus on what’s being taught?” TMS sufferers also know that emotions, often going back to childhood and how our parents treated us, can make us feel pain. Should social-emotional learning prove successful, in other words, it could generate a string of benefits that far exceeds a mere bump in test scores. This prospect has led to some giddiness among researchers. Maurice Elias, a psychology professor at RutgersUniversity and the director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, has lauded emotional literacy as “the missing piece” in American education. SEL may also be the missing link in parenting. Parents try to be kind and positive in how they speak to their children, but sometimes stresses take control of their emotions and they may, like Jimmy’s mother, say something that hurts the child. Too much of that can leave emotional scars on the child that can show up in TMS. I’m not a parent, so what do I know about saying kind or positive things to anyone of any age? You can laugh, but I have learned to be very careful of not yelling at my darling dog, Annie. The first time I did that, she walked away from me and sat and looked at me with such sad eyes that told me she was thinking, “Don’t yell at me. It hurts my feelings. I love you. I would never yell at you." My mother sometimes yelled at my older brother and me because we got into fights between ourselves, but at least we knew why we were being yelled at and that we deserved it. But my father used to put me down in front of his male friends, and I never knew why he did that, but it did leave me with feelings of low self-esteem. Now that I know about TMS I suspect he was just taking some of his repressed emotions out on me. We have to be careful not to do that. So maybe the message in all this is, it’s okay to yell at your unconscious mind that you know that repressed emotions are causing your pain. But don’t yell it out loud so anyone, especially your child or spouse, hears it. They may think you’re yelling at them. What can you say in response to someone who yells at you? If you have any thoughts on social-emotional learning and yelling at your child or anyone, we’d like to know about them.