Emotional Competence and Emotional Intelligence are very important factors in the success of your children as adults. Raising healthy, emotionally balanced children isn’t about shielding them from negative feelings and situations; it’s about showing them how to label, talk about and appropriately express, or deal with, the emotions they feel.
As parents, at times unknowingly we say things to our children that teach them to suppress their feelings. The key thing for us is to avoid using phrases which indicate to our child that their feelings are invalid and they should not feel or express them.
3 Things that you should never say to your kids:
1. “Be quiet and dry up your tears, it’s not a big deal”.
2. ” Stop that whining, there’s always something wrong with you”
3. ” Don’t you dare lose your temper with me young man”.
Instead help your children understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling. The message to send across is “ALL the feelings are OK even the worst ones.” says Dr. Christine Carter, (Sociologist and Happiness expert).
John Gottman’s book “Raising an emotionally intelligent child”, talks about 3 steps for emotional coaching of children – First, label and validate the emotions you see. Second, deal with misbehavior if you need to. Finally, help your child solve the problem.
1. Label and validate (accept even the negative emotions)
Respond to their cues, tune into their needs and mind, listen to them – both to what they are saying and what they are unable to say or understand.
Empathize to understand what is going on in their mind and heart.
Talk about your own feeling in the situation, which will help them encourage express what they feel.
Expect to see bad behavior, it’s normal. Don’t worry we will deal with this in the next step.
Let me give you an example, the other day my elder daughter came back from school and heard that me and my younger daughter had been to the pool when she was in the school. She was not happy. Infact, she was very angry with the younger one, trying to ignore her the whole afternoon. Later in the evening when we were going out for play she insisted (with tantrums) that only she came with me and that we did not bring my younger one.
I was tempted to deal with her bad behavior right away, but I Paused, used the power of Pause – to hold off at that point. And I thought, this was the time to label her emotions and validate them and make her realize that it’s ok to feel what you feel.
I told her “I know why you are saying this – because you feel very angry that the little one had some swimming time with me without you and now you want the same – alone time with me, right? You are feeling angry and jealous? Are you? I also used to feel that sometimes when my mumma would do the same with my brothers.”
She said “Yes, very very angry. Why only she had alone fun time with you, that is not fair, now it’s my turn I must have it. I will not let her come with us.”
Me: “Oh my baby! You seem sad.” And hugged her. She crawled into my lap and rest her head on my shoulder.
What happened here: we just labeled my daughter’s feelings: Anger, Sadness, and Jealousy. Her feelings have also been validated, she knows it is ok to feel all those things even the bad ones. And that she is not alone in feeling them, I did feel them too.
2. Deal (with the bad behavior ,if applicable)
It is also important to correct the bad behavior and make the child understand the limits. So I told her that – “It’s ok to feel angry and want mamma’s time for yourself, but it’s not ok to punish your sister because she spent time with mamma, it was not her fault, was it?”
She agreed “No”.
3. Solve the problem
Me: “So how do you think we can make you happy without punishing her, next time? “
Brainstorming with the child works very well to get the problems solved, it also gets their buy in to the solution.
We came up with a solution of going to the pool when the younger one went for her activity class.
It’s really not the incident that was important but the fact that she was getting in touch with her emotions. Life rarely will give you the same situation, but with time and practice she will be able to introspect and understand whatever the situation brings to her for herself, because she is also learning the process and will never shy away from looking inside herself.
Remember introspection is painful, but you can do it as long as you are ready to accept all your emotions especially the negative ones. Acceptance is the key. So telling your child that feeling negative emotions is also a part of being human and that they do not have to be an embodiment of perfection will release a lot of pressure from them and also make them emotionally more equipped to handle LIFE.
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