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Cognitive and Social and Emotional Skills - A Message from Deputy Principal - Students

Recently I read a report by the OECD (2014) that discusses the critical skills children require to influence the overall quality of life outcomes. According to the report, a balanced set of cognitive as well as social and emotional skills are necessary for achieving positive outcomes in both relationships and employment.

When we talk about improving a child’s cognitive skills, we are referring to the intellectual growth that children experience as a result of formal and informal learning which is measured by such things as academic testing. Developing a child’s cognitive skills obviously plays a significant role in contributing to tertiary and employment success.

Increasing social and emotional skills such as perseverance, self-esteem and sociability contributes to improving health-related outcomes and subjective well-being, as well as reducing anti-social behaviours. It is important to note that social and emotional skills do not operate in isolation but intertwine with cognitive skills to further enhance outcomes in later life.

This information is also supported by research which suggests that when young people learn how to behave respectfully within relationships, they show improved academic outcomes, more positive social behaviour, lower rates of mental health issues and are less likely to engage in violent, risky and disruptive behaviour (

The Kids Helpline website defines respect as accepting somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you or you don’t agree with them.

We live in a world of conflict with an extremely diverse range of strong opinions, views, likes and dislikes. Often, when discussing an issue that has arisen at school, one or more students in the situation have not behaved respectfully. Is it okay to be tolerant and respectful to only those that think the same way we do? How do we behave respectfully when we can’t seem to find any common ground? suggests leading by example and using the following strategies to engage with others respectfully when there are differences of opinion. These are valuable lifelong skills and certainly worth sharing with our girls:

  1. Start with an open mind. Be willing to hear opposing opinions - even outrageous ones - and learn about the worldview of people you don’t agree with.

  2. Look for common ground. Initially these may only be small things but it may lead to a more open discussion about your differences and how each came to be who you are, leading to a grater understanding of each other.

  3. Listen closely. Truly focus on what the other person is saying instead of concentrating on what you are going to say next. In our world of social media it is also very easy to type an impulsive, emotional response without even trying to understand what is being said.

  4. Stay calm. Emotions run high when it comes to differing beliefs and opinions, but remember, every individual has worth and a right to an opinion, even if you don’t agree - don’t take it personally. If the conversation starts getting heated, take a step back until you are able to constructively engage again.

  5. Seek understanding. Instead of looking for ways to discredit others’ opinions, ask questions and genuinely try to understand their position. Agreement doesn’t make a relationship, but respect does.

Kids Helpline provide the following advice for young people to assist with identifying whether or not they are in a respectful relationship:

  • You know it’s okay for you to express who you are

  • When you disagree you listen to each other and be patient

  • You don’t yell or talk over the top of each other

  • You don’t control another person’s choices

  • You can talk openly about your needs and wants

  • You allow the other person space if they need it

  • You can admit when you have made a mistake

Behaving respectfully is not something that comes naturally. Like all skills we learn, it is something we need to practise so that we might become good at it.

Nadine Kelly

Deputy Principal - Students


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