Sunday, 19 April 2015

Raising emotionally intelligent children

The terrible twos.  What makes them so terrible, exactly?  One of the things I noticed, literally the week my daughter turned two, was that she started throwing tantrums.  I think one of the main reasons she's started doing this is that she's starting to feel all these emotions and doesn't know what to do with them.  She feels upset or angry, but doesn't know how to express it.  Knowing how to identify and express emotions and feelings is a huge part of emotional intelligence. 

How are you feeling, little one?

I recently read this article that highlights the importance of emotional intelligence as adults, but I think it's so important for us to be raising emotionally intelligent children, too.  In conflict resolution, one of the main things we teach is to express your feelings by using "I" statements.  You know, "I feel _____ when you do _____."  Expressing our feelings is key in developing stronger relationships and getting to know others.  That's why teaching your children emotional vocabulary is so important!  Learning to recognize how others are feeling is also really important in learning to be compassionate and empathetic.  I've been trying to teach this to my 2.5 year old (and my husband, too, haha), and I thought I'd share how we are trying to do it.

When she was younger, I would identify how she appeared to be feeling when she was emoting.  For example, when she was crying, I'd say, "You're crying.  It looks like you feel sad."  If she was throwing a tantrum, I'd wait until she was calmer, and then say, "You were crying and yelling.  Were you angry?"

We started with these emotions:
  • happy
  • sad
  • mad/angry
  • scared
  • excited
  • lonely
  • embarrassed
Then we started reinforcing some of these during our bedtime routine.  I came across this post in my Pinterest travels, so I've started asking my daughter the first two questions:

I want her to be able to express what made her happy so that we can pray and be thankful for these things.  And lately she's taken to telling me she's happy because I'm playing with her.  Melt.   She has also taken to telling me she's lonely in an effort to get me to co-sleep with her.  Can't blame a girl for trying!  As she learns to express these feelings, I think we'll venture into asking her about her other emotions.

We've also had great success discussing feelings through books.  I like to ask my daughter how she thinks people are feeling by looking at their expressions.  There are lots of great children's books about feelings.  These are some of our favourites:

If you're looking for a longer list, there's a great feelings book list for infants and toddlers. 

Tip! If you have photos of your child showing different emotions, why not print your own photobook using Shutterfly, or another photobook publisher?

How do you help your child express his or her emotions and feelings?  What resources do you use?

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