At age 5, focus should be on emotions, not testing

There is no greater threat to success than putting kindergartners to the test (“The end of kindergarten?” Ideas, June 14). At the heart of children’s success, and the success of our society, is not whether children know how to read and solve math problems by age 5, but whether they’ve learned how to regulate their emotions.

Contrary to the standards movement, my decades as a clinical psychologist, educator, and parent have taught me that self-regulation — the ability to manage emotions, behavior, and thinking — is the true core of children’s success. Without this crucial ability to regulate emotions, prosocial and goal-directed behaviors are disrupted and children cannot learn.

All parents want their children to master an academic skill set, but parents and educators must understand that the brain cannot think, or learn, when feelings are poorly managed. Understanding the importance of regulating one’s emotions can also help solve the achievement gap. Self-regulation is a tool that all children can apply, regardless of their environment. In fact, it is a proven protective factor against stress, maltreatment, and poverty.


If we are truly interested in what is best for our children, then the Common Core needs to focus on helping them develop self-regulation from the beginning.

Donna Housman


The writer is an assistant clinical professor at Boston University School of Medicine and founder of Beginnings School in Weston.