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Define How Early Childhood Effects Emotional Attunement

Updated on August 1, 2013

Emotional Attunement and Childhood Education

Emotional attunement begins in infancy with Momma responding to the subtle shifts in the child’s expression. When the child is hungry and begins to fuss Momma responds to let the child know she is aware of the need. As the child grows older and more aware he/she begins to explore different kinds of interaction, and depending on how the adults in the child’s life respond, they learn to attune.

It’s a lifelong process, but that earliest interaction is crucial to the rest of childhood education and the social experiences the child has with their peers. An emotionally attuned person will excel at school, accumulate many friends, will be liked by teachers, and make responsible choices because they will be aware of themselves and how they affect those around them. Even a thing as simple as forcing eye contact or breaking eye contact can effect a child’s emotional attunement. It’s scary to know how responsible we are for our children’s sense of well-being.

I must admit right now that this subject strikes very close to my heart. I am a father and a grandfather and I have a sister who gave birth to twins 6 years ago and developed health problems that left her unable to care for her children alone. Therefore my mother has had to take over in her retirement to care for the children during the day.

She is a huge blessing to the family, my brother-in-law would have a very difficult time without her. I stop by quite often during the week to help out where I can, and have grown very close to my nieces.

I’m also getting a glimpse into my own upbringing watching my mother with these girls. Mom is not what I would call emotionally well adjusted. She often sends mixed signals with a lot of yelling, and 70 year old temper tantrums. When confronted she denies everything. She is very scary when defending herself.

She’s very inconsistent in her behavior, and appears to have very little personal awareness. I remember her losing her temper at unpredictable times and receiving severe punishments that left us both sobbing in pain. I see that tendency toward the girls as well, although much milder than I received.

Dan Heller Photography
Dan Heller Photography

Out of Emotional Attunement

The reason I point this out is not to blow any whistles or put blame on my Mom. She is a generous loving person who will make every sacrifice in the world for her family. I love her dearly. She has emotional problems, very common ones, I believe, for folks of her generation. There was very little awareness of the importance of early childhood in her day. Even in my early childhood from the mid '60s there was still a lot to learn.

I did very poorly in school, had a very difficult time making friends, and preferred for the most part to be alone. I have been very needy and aloof in my intimate adult relationships, which have all ended horribly. I am a recovered alcoholic/addict, and I have literally spent years in therapy and research to find a way to live with myself. I am still in that process, it is very difficult to change those early self-perceptions we get from our upbringers. This is a direct result of lacking emotional attunement.

Childhood education is a very important subject in our society today, and one that gets a lot of attention. Many people fear that our youngsters are not getting a good education, and clearly the public education system ranks fairly low in the governmental priority list, way behind defense spending, and national security. I might venture to say that the biggest threat to this country is internal, but that is another article.

Our children learn to read, and write, and most can do enough rudimentary math to make purchases. This is really all one needs to function within our flawed system. We must realize that the educational system is really not designed to unleash individual potential. It is designed to instill conformity and raise adults that will fulfill the needs of society. We need garbage men more than we need astronauts, policemen more than musical geniuses, and nurses more than neurosurgeons. Public education was developed to quash labor revolts, and revolutionary activity within the working classes.

Emotional Intelligence

Now that isn’t to say that there’s something wrong with that. I'll save that for another article. Our flawed society is not the point at all here. Our world is the way that it is for now, so the only factor that will give a child a chance to get beyond that conformity is emotional stability. The ability to see what is expected of them and to gladly meet those expectations without feeling like they are losing themselves in the bargain.

Equally important is the ability to help others meet those expectations and to feel a part of a group. Without proper emotional attunement childhood education becomes a form of deconstruction; the child feels as if their individuality is being stripped away, and the other children sense this vulnerability. Everyone knows how brutal kids are on each others egos.

This emotional attunement is not something that can be addressed with any real benefit at school. Only the child’s parents and caregivers can empower a child emotionally. Nor is it something that can be summed up in a little article on the internet; “Ten Ways To…” not.

Daniel Goleman published “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995 which brought together years of family research and emotional experiments, as well as physical understanding of how emotions work in that organ called the brain. It’s a phenomenal text for this subject. Chapter 7 “The Roots of Empathy” and chapter 12 “The Family Crucible” are specifically geared toward the formative years.

Goleman also has several otheres now that I have not read, one is: "Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Building Inner Strength In Children." An online search of Emotional Attunement and Childhood Education yields a lot of fantastic information. There is also quite a few newer books aimed at emotional stability in children.

Help Children Learn to Love Their Self.

However it is a fairly new science and not one that is easily understood. Tracing emotional reactions and how they effect daily life is almost impossible in a clinical setting. Understanding the subtleties between mother and child is equally difficult. Each of us is born with a certain temperament and parents are prone to their own personalities and habits and it all comes together in very specific ways that can not be standardized ever. Any kind of research will be severely limited.

I am a firm believer in “seek and ye shall find.” Realizing how deeply important our children’s emotional attunement is to their overall success in life, as well as getting the most out of their education, and searching for ways to improve ourselves in order to provide them will yield positive results.

I think the most important thing a parent can do is partner with their children, giving guidance as best we can and recognizing when we’re wrong and letting our children know it. If they see we’re not perfect, then they can know that they aren’t either, and we don‘t expect them to be. We’re all in this together and we’re all doing the best we can. There is only love at the end of the day, and love for others is directly proportional to how one learned to love themselves.


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      rcmandeville 23 months ago

      Great to find your article. I just published my first hub, and it addresses this issue through the lens of Alice Miller's book, 'The Drama of the Gifted Child', and my own experience both personally and professionally (I grew up in a very traumatic family system; I am also a licensed Psychotherapist specializing in Family Systems). The first five years are absolutely critical in regard to a child being able to develop healthy attachments as adults; also, in regard to the true self thriving, versus the child surviving via a false self. But children are resilient, and it is amazing how we can go on to grow, heal, and even thrive if we are able to access the resources that will point us in the right direction to do so. Thanks again for this piece!

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      Grace 7 years ago

      Excellent article!

    • Gerg profile image

      Gerg 8 years ago from California

      C.M. - great hub article; significant, personal, authentic. I appreciate your thoughts!