Cultivating Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is a hot topic these days, as many disciplines and professions recognize the effect of emotions on every endeavor, especially those that involve interpersonal relationships. It is beneficial in many ways to be able to identify and identify with (empathy) how others are feeling, at home, at work and elsewhere in the world, and a relief to know that this is a teachable/learnable skill.
Emotional Intelligence is the umbrella under which teaching empathy and empowering children (see those sections below) resides. Here are some articles about Emotion Coaching:
Here is a quick explanation of emotion coaching, which describes Dr. Gottman’s work. It hints at the connection between positive discipline and emotion coaching.
This is a video series from the Gottman Institute. I haven’t watched it, and you have to buy it, but I’m including it because the Gottmans are highly reputable and their advice is research-based. You can decide if you’re interested enough to purchase it!
This article suggests a few “steps” in the process of emotion coaching, including identifying your own emotions and cultivating empathy and compassion for what your child is experiencing. The only detail I would disagree with is the rote apology the parent asks the child to make; I believe that making amends is more meaningful to everyone. It also conflicts with the author’s advice in the next step, to avoid telling a child how she ought to feel.
Here are links to some articles and videos (I couldn’t find any podcasts; I apologize if this is your favorite way to learn) on teaching empathy.
Links to resources on Teaching Empathy:
Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. She studies courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy and has written several books on these topics. You may have seen this popular video, shared by a parent, or seen one of her Ted talks on vulnerability or courage.
Empathy is Tough to Teach, But is One of the Most Important Life Lessons, by Dr. Brene Brown
This article describes the evidence that humans are wired for empathy, but goes on to explain that it needs to be cultivated/taught, too.
Here’s a Sesame Street video that you might want to watch with your child(ren):
This site offers suggestions for easy-to-implement games that can be played with little or no equipment:
Here’s a good article with tips about how you can cultivate empathy in real life. I especially like Tip # 4, as it touches on “cognitive empathy,” the ability to intellectually understand or imagine another person’s circumstances and the resulting emotions:
This one is interesting because it examines empathy in the context of the larger world:
Here are some ideas from the Making Caring Common Project, from the Harvard School of Education:
This is a link to many videos about teaching empathy:
Empowering children is also of great relevance, as parents and teachers seek to find ways to help them recognize and cultivate their own strengths, be able to stand their ground, resist peer pressure, and make good decisions for themselves.
I personally believe that “we” have become way too overprotective. Children need to take risks, learn from their mistakes (if they perceive it that way!), and try again another way. In this way they eventually understand themselves as capable, persistent, adaptable, resilient, and smart: all of which add up to feeling confident and in control of their own lives, which means empowered.
Children also benefit from being held accountable for their actions and asked to be responsible for something, like pet care or some cleaning task or helping with food preparation. Again, this contributes to their understanding of themselves as capable, leading to confidence and empowerment.
Give your child regular opportunities to make their own decisions. Obviously, you are in control of which ones: the high-stakes decisions are in yourpower, but smaller, yet important ones, give kids practice in thinking about their actions and the possible consequences, and in deciding what they think about a given situation or topic. Over time, they learn to trust their own judgment, which becomes crucial as they move further and further into the world.
It is powerful for children to get to express their opinions about things that require some thought. For instance, “Do you think it’s ok to…….? Why?” or, “What do you think we could do to help so & so?” or “What would you do if your best friend pushed you?” These conversations can come up organically as you share your daily stories, but sometimes the adults have to exercise patience for the slower pace of children’s thinking process. If children are given time to think, decide and articulate their views, they gain a sense of themselves as people whose thoughts and opinions matter.
Finally, I believe that children gain a sense of their own worth and power if we teach them how to set boundaries. In preschool, many of you have probably heard me cue children to stand up for themselves while respecting others. For example, kids should know how to say, “Don’t touch me; this is my body,” or “that is my project. Please don’t touch it,” or “I want to play by myself.”
I protect their right to build or draw or paint until they are satisfied, and ask them to let those who might be waiting know when they are finished. All of these tactics help instill in children the belief that they have rights, that they and their work are worthy of protection, and also that they in turn must respect others’ boundaries.
All of these small experiences add up, over time, to a child who is thoughtful, confident, able to speak up for her or himself, and to trust her or his own judgment. That means she or he is empowered, and that is a big payoff for your years of work!
Here are links to some articles, videos and podcasts on empowering children:
Here is an article that is short and to the point. I like the reminder that sometimes children need help to complete a task, and it’s ok to give them help! Sometimes I think we (I know I did with my kids!) get stuck in an attitude that says, “you made the mess, you clean it up,” which doesn’t really teach them to take responsibility, it teaches them that they’re on their own when they’re overwhelmed (of course, you have to ascertain if you’re being wheedled or not!). Helping models helping! Isn’t that something we want to teach them?
This article is in a 10-tips format, which I like because it makes it easy to implement. I found it thought-provoking. It might make you think about times in your own daily lives that you can either add to or subtract from your child’s feelings of empowerment.
This one touches on the ripple effect that a powerful person can have in influencing others.
I don’t agree with this author’s assertion that children are a blank slate, but I think it’s true that children become what we tell them they are, all-in-all. I also really like the “pirate stance,” which reminds me of “teasing shields,” which we’ve made before, and which help kids to remember their own power to resist or ignore the rude words or actions of others. This is one way to set a boundary: “I don’t have to listen to that.”
This article delves into how important it is for kids to know that you value their opinions, thoughts and ideas.
A couple of TED talks:
How to Ignite and Empower Children: Soulamia Gourani.
This one made me wonder, “why do we discourage children, then congratulate them for making it “against all odds,” when we could just encourage them in the first place?!? Gourani makes a compelling case for really seeing and listening to kids, and helping them see their own value.
Parenting to Empower: Harry Judd
Harry Judd asserts that the prime opportunity for parents to empower positive decision making in their children lies in a values based approach. Instilling values early on provides a sense of security and self-confidence that makes children less likely to be negatively influenced by outside forces.
Interestingly, Harry is a teenager.