Thinking Begins with Emotionally Relevant Interactions
Thinking Begins with Emotionally Relevant Interactions
The Floor Times 
from The Greenspan Floortime Approach®
31 October 2017
    October's Floor Times theme is all about "thinking":  How we develop the ability to think and the importance of a thinking-based curriculum in and out of schools.   While most professionals, educators and therapists claim they teach children to think, and they might do so some of the time, most of the expereinces they provide children are adult led.  Unfortunately structured adult led experiences are NOT thinking based, especially at a young age.  Under these circumstances the adult is typically doing most of the thinking and trying to "teach" the child to respond in a specific manner.  Even though the child is learning something, they are not truely learning to think.  Thinking requires exploration, social interaction, communicaiton, and often an adult to gradually support or "expand the challenge" to encouage problem solving and growth.  Over the last 3 months we've discussed the 3 main techniques of Greenspan Floortime, and now you can see how they all come together to create a "THINKING-BASED APPROACH".  At its most fundamental and broad definition Greenspan Floortime is a set of techniques to encourage thinking.   Only parents and profesionals who are encouraging thinking are truely doing Greenspan Floortime.

The Process of Learning: Mechanisms Children Use to Learn How to Think. Excerpts of articles By Dr. Stanley Greenspan 
 
There is a common link that unites the different ways of teaching children to think. The link is that it involves emotional interactions between the child and his educators and caregivers. These emotional interactions, we have found, are not simply responsible for social skills or high levels of empathy. We have found that they are also at the foundation of our intelligence and many of our basic academic skills. In recent years, many have focused on multiple aspects of intelligence, including emotional intelligence. Our observations and research suggest, however, that there is an identifiable series of emotional interactions that underlie intelligence in a more generic sense and, in this context, underlie many of the different types of intelligence that have been described {Greenspan 1997 105 /id}.
Piaget, the pioneering Swiss cognitive theorist, thought children learned to become intelligent and to think by acting on their physical world and learned from doing (Piaget, 1962). For example, an eight-month-old pulled a string and if it rang a bell, he learned causality. The pull could cause an interesting sound. But we have observed in our clinical work and research with infants that months earlier (3-6 months), infants learn to use a smile to get a smile or vocalization back. They pull on mother's "heart string" and get a rich emotional response. It is through this type of emotional interaction that they learn their first lessons in causality. At each stage of thinking, the emotional interactions lead the way and then get applied to other domains. Piaget was, therefore, partially correct in his emphasis on learning through acting on the world. But he was not aware of the fact that emotions serve as the first probe to the outer world and continue to serve as our most differentiated probe to the interpersonal and physical world. In a sense, every early experience is double-coded— one according to the physical sensations encountered through our actions and the other through the emotional interactions encountered. The almost infinite degrees of subtlety that characterize our emotional probes create the opportunity to construct, at each level of development, a high degree of intelligence {Greenspan 1997 105 /id}.
We can observe how emotional interactions serve to help the child learn to think by looking at some of the most common capacities a young child masters. Consider, for example, how a young child first learns how to say "Hi!" as she greets other people. A toddler does not memorize lists of appropriate people to say hello to. She merely connects the greeting with a warm friendly feeling inside her body that leads her to reach out to other people with a friendly greeting. If she experiences a different feeling, say one of anxiety, she is more likely to turn her head or hide behind her caregiver's legs, as she might with a harsh a relative. It is these feelings that determine the manner in which a child greets others. 
It has also been well established that altruism and empathy, "prosocial" attitudes, grow out of early emotional interactions, as does the capacity to engage in warm, nurturing relationships with others. The ability to understand another person's feelings and to care about how he or she feels can only arise out of a series of nurturing interactions. A child can only feel empathy and understand another person if someone has been empathetic and caring with her during the formative years of her emotional development. Similarly, intimacy can only be learned if the child experiences sustained intimacy. These capacities are necessary not only for one's emotional and social development, but for understanding relationships in literature and the reasons for historical or current events. To grow these emotional capacities requires constant and consistent engagement from one or a few stable caregivers. To be sure, children can learn certain socially appropriate behaviors — how to do the 'right thing'— by formal instruction; but the capacity to truly care for another human being only comes from experiencing that feeling of care and consideration oneself.  Even basic math concepts are learned through our emotions.
Learning math might appear to be a strictly impersonal learning task, but how does a preschooler acquire a sense of quantity which underlies understanding what numbers mean? To a three-yearold, "a lot" is more than he needs and "a little" is less than he expects. Emotional interactions with cookies or other desired objects enable a child to master the concept of  quantity. Later on, he can systematize this understanding which will lead to the basic sense of quantity with numbers, and add and subtract. 
Logical problem-solving also stems from emotional interaction. It begins with a toddler taking her mother's hand, walking to the refrigerator, and pointing to a favorite food. From these types of interactions, there emerges a repertoire of interactional techniques a child acquires in order to solve emotionally significant problems... 
 
Dr. Greenspan's Story
Interaction, Creativity, and Thinking Lead to Academic Success 
Challenging a child to think Leads to Higher Level Emotions and Academics
Creativity, Emotions, and Reflective Thinking
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