By Susan Dunn
EQ accounts more for your child's success and happiness in life than IQ. What are you doing to develop your child's emotional intelligence?
The best way to increase your child's EQ, is to increase your own, because – formally or informally, consciously or unconsciously – when you're with your children you're teaching.
Why? Because you're the most important person in their life, and they're always watching and listening. You can't be with your child and not be teaching something, and a large part of it is about emotions.
TEACH YOUR CHILD PRESENT-TALK
One specific way you can work with your child is to use "ing" words – the gerund, it's called – doing, eating, getting in bed, sleeping, turning out the light, crying. These are verbs that describe what is going on as it goes on.
The irony is that, although one of the many reasons why we love children is that they live in the present, we don't live in the present, and we don't talk to them in the present. We don't help them learn to label what is going on with them in the moment.
Language is a powerful tool for understanding oneself, manipulating the environment, and expressing our emotions. When a toddler first learns to say "I don't want" and "no" he learns that he can use words to make things happen, and this is a moment of claiming great power.
Remember to use this with feelings as well. When we say, "I was angry," it's a reflective, after-the-fact, analytical statement. When we say, "I AM angry," it gives us an understanding of those flooding and powerful feelings, and therefore a sense of control. What we can name loses its mystery.
Be observant next time you're teaching your child to talk (which means any time you're talking with him or her), or when someone else is teaching their child to talk. Notice how typically we say, "Yes, you have a ball," or "Jaime threw the ball," or "Throw Mommy the ball," or "Jaime has the ball."
Now consider what happens when we stick "ing" on the back of a verb – an action word. When your child is in the act of doing or feeling something, say, "Katya is walking now," and "Katya is crying," and "You are feeling sad." (And your child will repeat it!)
This really labels for the child what's going on with them in the moment. It labels their actions and feelings and you can see how this gives you a real sense of identity – which will mature into Personal Power, an EQ competency.
When Katya repeats, "Katya is crying," or "I am walking," this is a much more powerful in-the-moment "I" message than "I walked" or "Katya threw the ball," or "Mommy will throw the ball." Those messages point to the past, and to the future, neither of which exist, and to other people.
AN AGENT IN YOUR OWN LIFE
One way to have good emotional intelligence is to understand yourself as an AGENT in what goes on in your life – that what you do causes something to happen. This is the opposite of feeling like a victim – feeling hopeless and helpless.
If your child can say "I am walking," they can understand they can stop walking. Not so if they say, "I walked." That's over.
Of course in due time you'll teach, and your child will learn, the complex concept of time – before, after and now.
In the meantime, teach language using "ing" words, gerunds, so your child will have words to describe what she or he is doing at the moment, in the now, and all by him or herself. What a powerful sense of agency this brings!
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