Monday, October 10, 2011

Forget about ABCs, What about helping our child learn about emotions & EI?

I just finished a mandatory training session for work.  One of the items they kept emphasizing is the lack of emotional intelligence in the world.
In my line of work, everyone is fairly book smart.  I jokingly mention these uber-geek scientist types may lack proper synapse alignment when it comes to EI.  It's true though for some.  Common sense isn't common and emotional intelligence isn't emphasized.
As I'm going through the session, I realized that subconsciously that is what my husband and I strive to help our child (and soon to be children) develop.
Over the weekend my husband commented on how one of our child's playmates reacted to another child's crying by saying repeatedly, "Stop crying.  We don't cry."
He was taken aback by this statement.  We have never told our child that it isn't ok to cry when she's hurt or frustrated or whatever.  We've always felt is it ok to feel the way we feel.  We should never feel we need to surpress our emotions especially when we are just learning what they are.  Heck, as adults, we still trying to grasp the intense feelings emotions play in our lives and actions.
We've always made it a point to say to make her emotions feel validated.
This throws off my mother but that again, we parent differently and in a different age.
For us, we want her to be aware of her emotions and learn what they are.  We also want her to have the freedom to speak about them and express what she can with the small but every growing vocabulary she has.
TG: I'm sad and crying because I'm frustrated.
We thank her for explaining to us how she feels.  We appreciate that she explains to us and if she can't find the words, we try to talk it out.
We're also at the point where we're learning about actions and the actions we make based on emotions. We want her to learn to self-regulate but not based on do this not that or because we said so.  We want her to know the outcome is in her hands.  She has empowerment to manage her feelings and the outcome of said feelings.  This is complicated for an adult.  Boy my husband and I have our work cut out for us. LOL
We let her know that it's ok to be frustrated.  It's ok to be angry.  It's not ok to throw objects or hit or punch anyone when you are frustrated or angry.  Many times she'll ask us why.  We explain that we don't hurt people because of our frustration or anger. You can be angry at someone but what does hitting do?  Does it make you feel better?  Does it make the other person feel better? Would you like to be hit?
Our latest in this concept is throwing objects.  She has the power to choose the outcome.
If she throws something out of anger or frustration or sadness, I take it away for a bit.  Most of the time it's her lovey or one of her stuffed friends.
She started this in the wee hours of night when she couldn't settle down on her own.
I nicely told her, "You throw, I keep.  You have the power to choose what happens next."
Now she still throws things now and then.  I think that's normal.  Heck, if I could throw my shoe when I'm angry, I probably would.  I think it's reduced the amount of times though that she's thrown things since it started.
We are also trying to instill empathy.  This is becoming harder as she's growing older because now we have to deal with personalities of fellow toddlers.
Which goes back to DH's observation that another playmate said to another playmate, "Stop crying. We don't cry."
During the same playdate, TG asked her friend if they could hold hands and walk home together.  He said no.  He didn't want to hold her hand.  She asked for a hug.  He said no.
She didn't seem hurt but she did seem to have questions about it.
Later, she asked me why and I explained sometimes people aren't ready just like when she isn't ready to share her scooter or tricycle.  She seemed to understand it a little better.
I think that's why she's exerting her power now when DH asks her for a hug or a kiss.  Sometimes she'll say no.  Sometimes she'll say yes.
This whole emotional intelligence thing is much harder than anything on our things to help your child learn list yet it's something I think is imperative and important to emphasis and work on.
My child will learn to read.  My child will learn to do complex mathematical calculations (and I am so not looking forward to this as I'm not the most proficient in math or chemistry.).  There will be folks that will help us with these concepts but we as the parents of these little humans must be the primary models and guides to the complex map of emotions that we as humans have.