There are days when I feel all-powerful and capable of doing so much, and then there are days when I completely feel lost and consumed with overthought. I feel little kids have a way to sense what their parents are going through and respond with adequate affection to provide an instant relief. At least, we should try to raise such emotionally sentient kids who can recognize their own emotions as well as tune into the emotions of those around them. It sounds easy, even romantic, but how does one go about doing it?
Whenever a group of parents gets together, in all likelihood they will discuss how their kids are becoming more and more stubborn and how they have learned to throw tantrums to get their way. My one year old has already attained some mastery in displaying the sad pout, which can melt the toughest of hearts, that then concede to his wishes. But as adorable as it looks, there is a subtle message that goes to the little one every time he uses it as a trump card to get his wish – that I am entitled to a lot of things, which if denied, call for me to become rebellious and a few shed tears seal the deal for me. I guess for children below the age of 3, who are unable to communicate their thoughts, crying ends up denoting many underlying emotions of pain, anger, tiredness and even boredom. But as the children grow, it is important to help them recognize their feelings, communicate them lucidly and deal with them independently. This is emotional intelligence.
I find story telling as a very powerful tool to connect with kids starting at a very young age. Creating a world of different characters and weaving a story around them opens up the doors of imagination and creativity for kids and they can start to relate to the fact that everyone goes through emotions and it’s not just them. My son enjoys watching pigeons from across the balcony and observes them drinking water, bathing and even fighting with each other. So many a times, I weave short stories about the pigeon mamma and papa who go out searching for food for their little one and how they come back home tired and go off to sleep without eating anything themselves. Sometimes, the story is about the two sibling pigeons that fight to eat the same worm and then their mother intervenes to give each of them a half. Sometimes, even a short and simple poem can help a child gradually tune into their feelings- Aha parenting had a beautiful poem that goes-
“If you’re happy and you know it” – clap your hands
“If you’re mad and you know it” – stomp your foot
“If you’re sad and you know it” – cry a tear
“If you’re hungry and you know it” – rub your tum
“If you’re tired and you know it” – give a yawn
“If you’re antsy and you know it” – jump up and down
“If you’re shy and you know it” – peek through your hands
“If you’re silly and you know it” – giggle and twist
“If you’re loved and you know it” – hug your mom or dad
For older kids, a lot of studies have shown that talking to the child about the his/her emotions and acknowledging those feelings helps build a bond of trust and understanding with the parent and the child feels more comfortable to display the right emotion along with feeling capable of handling it. For instance, in a situation where a child is feeling hurt about being left out for a party and in turn takes it out by yelling at a sibling, instead of saying hurtful things like ‘You are such a bully’ or ‘You are always screaming’, try to address the root of the problem by saying ‘ I understand you are angry with your friends for not inviting you to the party, but it is not your brother’s fault’.
We have all seen plenty of grown-ups who either can’t recognize and communicate their feelings or can’t deal with their emotions and end up spoiling their health and relationships. In a world full of people who are rushing to make their mark in a short span of time, emotional intelligence is what will help our kids get over frustrations, failures and losses, deal with the accompanying emotions and move forward with a positive outlook. Let’s catch ’em young for it.
For a detailed read, I found the following article quite compelling – EQ