For example: When we see our child crying or throwing a tantrum, our first reaction is to say, ‘Stop crying!’ We immediately feel compelled to push their feelings under the carpet — especially in public — as we see crying as a sign of weakness. We feel embarrassed and try to stop our child’s crying by distracting our child, scolding, threatening or by brushing away her feelings. This may stop the crying, but the hurt or anger does not go away. It emerges in some other way very soon.
Children cry to express a need when they may not have the words to express feelings. The crying continues until they discharge their hurt feelings and feel that it’s resolved. Discharging pent up emotions is vital for managing emotions and feelings. John Medina, Developmental molecular biologist, says that the most important thing parents can do for their children is to pay attention to emotions. In his book, Brain Rules for Baby, he says, “How we deal with our children’s emotional lives — our ability to detect, respond to, promote and provide instruction about emotional regulation — is the greatest predictor of their future happiness. It affects their ability to empathise with people and thus maintain friendships — a big factor in human happiness. It will even affect their academic scores.”
Parents play a powerful and healing role in the child’s life. We need to teach our children to recognise and express all feelings in healthy ways. When children are allowed to express all their feelings, they grow up to be emotionally intelligent adults capable of expressing their feelings constructively — whether at their workplace or in their marriage or any other relationship. So, when they are upset, they are able to express it in words. We can develop emotional intelligence in our children and even in ourselves using some simple brain-building tools:
Name the feeling
“Looks like you are very ‘upset’. Come, let me give you a hug.” “I can imagine how ‘sad’ you are feeling that your toy broke.” “Sounds like you are very ‘disappointed’…. you really wanted to win the match.”
Allow the feeling and limit the action
“Would you like to draw and show me how angry you are feeling?” “In our family, we don’t hit anyone. How about you talk to me about what’s bothering you?”
When children receive empathy and help to calm down, they know how to do it themselves later in life. This emotional coaching enables our children to grow up to be adults with high emotional intelligence with an innate ability to calm themselves by proactively addressing and acknowledging their feelings.
- Contributed by Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. For comments/ feedback, write to parentingmattersindia@ gmail.com