25 January 2012

Read My {Emotional Cues}

Something high on the parenting list lately has been something we call "reading the cues". It's teaching Peter to watch Ezra's body language to discover how he might be feeling. It's listening to a friend's tone of voice. It's accepting and discussing feelings as they come. It's teaching language that helps in social interactions.

Because getting along with others doesn't always come naturally to a four year old {or a two year old, for that matter}!

Ever heard of Emotional Intelligence {EQ}? Ever wondered what it's all about?

Here's an easy list of how a high EQ can be of great benefit.
Emotional intelligence provides the:
  • Ability to persist in the face of difficulty
  • Ability to monitor one's feelings
  • Ability to read others' feelings
  • Ability to get along with others
  • Ability to resist temptation in the service of a higher goal
  • Ability to take action that considers the needs of self and others
IQ might get you through school with high grades, but EQ will help you keep that great job or that fabulous relationship. And even more important {to me right now}, Emotional Intelligence will help you get along with your two-year-old brother.
Watching Body Language
Ezra's face might turn into a frown. He might lay down on the floor. He might pull back an arm in preparation to hit {not OK with Mom, by the way, but he's still learning that}. Peter needs to know what these non-verbal cues mean, so he can use relational skills to counteract them.

Listening to Voice Tone
It might be mommy using a very firm voice to get the child's attention. It might be a friend using a whiny voice to get what they want. It might be a high pitched "no, no, no" from little bro. Peter needs to learn how to interpret the tone in voices, so he can accept others feelings and work out solutions.

{Mommy to two-year-old}
When you brother says "stop please" you need to stop. Listen to his voice. :)

Accepting and Discussing Feelings
It's important for me to be a good role model here -- totally accepting and then discussing my child's feelings. No stuffing. No criticism. I won't tell him it's not OK to feel that way. The way I deal with his feelings is how he will learn to deal with others.

{Mommy to crying four-year-old} 
Please use words to tell me why you are sad and crying. Are you hurt? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you need to use the bathroom? {sounds like another page from "What's Wrong, Little Pookie?"} How can I help you? How are you feeling?

{Mommy, talking about her own feelings}
Sometimes mommy feels sad -- that's OK. I need a hug. Sometimes mommy feels angry -- that's OK. I just need some space. 

Teaching Language
To be equipped with language that helps in social situations is priceless. So I give examples of things he might say. I help him understand what might happen next, if he were to react one way, and then the benefit of reacting another way.

{Mommy to four-year-old}
If you want something that someone else has, you need to say "may I have a turn please?" And if they say no? You say OK. And you work out a sharing solution. "Can I have a turn in two minutes? Or when you finish that project?" You may need an adult to help the other child understand the benefit of taking turns. But always ask nicely, wait patiently, then ask an adult for help.

If you want to stop playing a game, explain to your friend why and present another option.

If someone hurts you, say "please stop, that hurts me". Explain to them what to avoid doing in the future.

When you see someone else crying, please say to them "What's wrong? Are you OK? Can I help you?"

It all seems so simple to us, because we've learned how to be emotionally intelligent over the years. We've learned to accept our feelings and resolve them in positive ways. But a child must be taught. It's one of those things that might be hard today, but will have a huge huge payoff in the future.
Need even more reasons to teach emotional intelligence? There are many. :)
An emotionally intelligent child has:
  • The ability to socially problem solve.
  • The ability to see things for how they really are.
  • The ability to adapt to changing situations and new information.
  • The ability to tolerate stress and respond appropriately.
  • The ability to understand your own feelings and how they affect others.
  • The ability to be assertive and express yourself constructively.
  • The ability to direct your own behavior independently.
  • The ability to respect and accept yourself.
  • The ability to understand and empathize with the feelings of others.
  • The ability to form and sustain satisfying relationships with others.
  • The ability to remain optimistic in the face of adversity.
So -- respect and label your child's feelings! Teach empathy! And model the language for healthy problem solving!

Your family will reap the rewards!