Happy, sad, angry and afraid.

These four primary emotions are universal for all human beings, of all ages. They are shared. They are human. They are real. They also are key to our lifelong learning, well-being and success.

Our ability to recognize, understand, express and regulate emotions is commonly called emotional intelligence or what is also referred to as emotional competence. Emotional intelligence has been shown to trump both IQ and experience when it comes to success.

As caregivers and educators, we sometimes err in that we try to hide, deny or avoid some of the more challenging emotions. We decide some emotions are good and others are bad. Mommy may not want to show anger so she mislabels it as sadness. Daddy may want all to be happy, so he puts a smile on his face and says he is happy when he clearly feels otherwise.

The reality is that children learn from caregivers through direction, modeling, and guidance and we can help teach them how to accurately identify, express, understand and even regulate emotion by developing those competencies in ourselves. We can communicate to children that it is human and natural to be sad, angry, happy or afraid. What is most important is how we manage these emotions. We can welcome, acknowledge and validate all emotions and help children better learn to manage them.

At Housman Institute, we aim to help caregivers and educators promote these competencies in children from birth. Through our begin to…ECSEL approach at our lab school Beginnings School and Child Development Center, we communicate to children as young as three months that all emotions, positive or negative, are acceptable and they can be appropriately expressed, understood, and managed.

Our studies show that children who have been taught our approach become more empathic, have increased self-awareness, learn to better regulate their emotion, and demonstrate stronger pro-social skills.

These skills, experts say, are indications of emotional intelligence. What we find so exciting is that through our begin to…ECSEL approach we can begin to foster the development of these critical skills from birth.