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Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (May 17, 2018)

Just this past week, I was leading a training session for in-service school teachers on the topic of positive emotions and we all agreed that if students can have positive emotions, school would be much better academically and socially. Sometimes people mistaken that learning about and focusing on emotions ‘takes away’ from the learning that is needed at school but we all know that if we are stressed, feeling angry, mad or sad, it’s a lot harder to focus on work and on getting good results. Helping our students experience positive emotions will enable them to learn better and to enjoy the process more.

According to Prof. Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model, one of the five integral elements of a life of well-being is experiencing positive emotions. But sometimes people can mistaken this as never having negative emotions.

In one of our classes with kindergarteners, we asked students 4-6 year old students, is it okay to feel happy? “yes” was the unanimous answer. Then the question was “is it okay to feel mad?” “no” was furious shaking heads. Many of us have been taught since young that it’s ‘bad to feel bad’ and that we should shut our emotions off.

I was once speaking to parents of a 2 year old and I asked them whether they had anything they were concerned about and they shared that they were worried that their daughter would cry and throw a tantrum when she’s upset. I think they were surprised when I said that it was a good thing. It’s healthy for a child to express her emotions to people close to her and at 2 years old, she doesn’t have the vocabulary nor emotional capacity to express herself well. But instead of shutting her emotions down, it’s to help her understand her emotion and to work it through.