“Behind the Smiling Faces” — Understanding Your Child

Behind the Smiling Faces

by Carole Richards


As parents, we see our children as beautiful and growing creatures.  Behind their smiling faces, we can look at them as learners, with three developmental “faces”:

  • Emotional
  • Physiological
  • Intelligence


The Emotional Face: A Combination of Factors

A child’s personality is a combination of genetics, environment and experience.

Your child’s genetic personality is a constant in the emotional face.  Everyone has a personality driven by genetics, which affects behavior.  When discussing juvenile problems, a judge friend of my once said, “It’s in their genes.”  She didn’t mean “blue jeans”!

Certain behaviors are genetically driven and, when viewed objectively, the child’s behaviors mirror other family members.  In my own family, my son tends to be a deep-thinking introvert and his sister is very outgoing and social.  Both children were raised in the same environment but have very different personalities.


Stress and Your Child’s Emotional Face

Stresses in life also affects a person’s behavior.  A divorce, death in the family, peer pressure, and school failure affect emotional health.  When any of us is under stress, we don’t think as clearly and our behavior may be less rational.  Be aware that stress will affect your child’s learning and school success.  When you think about how you react to stress, remember your child reacts to stress, too.


Emotional Intelligence Is a Different Way of Being Smart

“It is being able to manage distressing moods well and control impulses.  It is remaining hopeful when you have setbacks.  It is empathy and social skills,” states Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  “A caring adult in a child’s life can nurture the development of emotional intelligence… It can be taught.”


The Physiological Face

Physiology is defined as the processes of living organisms or their parts.  In this case, your child’s physiological face is affected by the way his brain processes information.

The brain receives information through its senses…

  • eyes [visual]
  • ears [auditory]
  • touch and muscle movements [kinesthetic]

…then processes it somewhat like a computer.  All human brains receive and process information in slightly different ways.  Some process information better when they hear it, and some deal better with the information if they see it.  Others, kinesthetic learners, process information better through touch and muscles.

To illustrate, Mr. Smith’s engine won’t start.  He is a kinesthetic learner.  He would never learn to fix his car by reading a manual or listening to a lecture.  He would open up the hood of his car and try to figure out the problem.  Or, he might ask a mechanic to show him how to fix his car.

It is important to understand how your child processes information while learning. Logically, teachers teach the way they learn.  It is critical to create a partnership between parents, child, and teacher so the learner has the most opportunities to learn successfully.


The Intelligence Face

How smart is your child?  Einstein believed humans use only 10% of their innate intelligence.  If he is correct, IQ should be considered, but it may be the least measure of a child’s abilities.  No matter what IQ tests show, every child has tremendous untapped potential.


So what does this all mean?

A 5 year old struggles with cutting and pasting as a result of poor fine motor skills.   However, at the same time, the child talks in complex sentences using big words.  His verbal skills are fantastic.

A 4-year-old child builds great bridges with LEGOs.  However, the same child struggles to learn letters and sounds.

Both of these children are bright.   Their parents understand the strengths and weaknesses of their children.  The parents have the opportunity to be the best advocates and “researchers” for their children as they look for solutions to their child’s challenges.  And, they are also the best cheerleaders, encouraging their child to be persistent and to develop a love of learning.

Everyone has an “emotional face” created by genetics and environment, a “physiological face” and an “intelligence face”.  Understanding these “learning faces” of your child will help create limitless opportunities for academic success.


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Education Services, president and director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp, and author of Richards Learning Systems ®.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

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Dave Hoffman