9 Ways To Build Emotional Intelligence in Children

Ways to build emotional intelligence in children

According to this article, emotion coaching is one of the most important parenting practices of all time. Kids can be awfully emotional, particularly around the ages of 2-5 years. My middle child, JJ, had one dark day last week. A day when everything fell apart, laying on the ground like dejected pieces of uncooperative Lego.

He wanted his Lego fixed in a particular way. But frustration got the better of him. (You know how it is when we get frustrated right? Nothing works, and everything seems to be pitted against us.)

He melted into a boiling mess. I was also getting frustrated, but I stood by and tried to console and encourage him, offering my help whenever his fingers struggled.

“This can be hard sometimes,” I offered, “the pieces keep falling off.”

“They just don’t act the way we want them to, don’t they?”

“How frustrating.”

I tried to use empathy and acknowledge his feelings.

At some points, he kept quiet, which I took as a good sign. But as he kept going and new struggles emerged, he would start up again.

As you can probably tell, we’ve experienced our fair share of bad days. But I’ve learnt some very valuable lessons along the way, and here are nine of them.

1. Focus on the problem. Don’t view the child as the problem.

Trust me, I know it’s so easy to look at your kid and start thinking, “you’re being a pain in the a** again.” But the moment we do this, we start to see our child as being the problem, instead of having a need that needs to be resolved. It takes our attention away from the problem at hand and curbs our ability to solve it.

2. Try not to get angry

Over-reacting comes easy when you’re already irritable or just had it up to here on any given day. But take some breaths and keep calm, and things usually take a turn for the better. At the very least, they will learn to eventually calm down because you are.

If you do react, try to regain composure by leaving the scene for a couple of minutes – drink some water or just look at the sky – whatever that helps you refocus. Then head in there and press rewind. It doesn’t always need to go downhill, you’re capable of turning around and trudging uphill. The same goes for your child.

It isn’t easy, especially in the heat of the moment. But this encourages me:

Try thinking this way: ‘You know, I don’t want my child behaving like this, but right at the moment he is. I can handle this. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, I give him permission to do this right now. In time, we’ll learn something new.’ When in your heart and mind you give him permission to be the way he is, your stress level goes down and you feel more in control. It works.

- Helping Your Kids Deal with Anger, Fear, and Sadness, H. Norman Wright

3. Involve them in problem-solving

Tell yourself, there are at least 10 ways to resolve this peacefully. Verbalize your thought process. Let your child see first-hand how problem-solving is done and you’ll see him following your example down the road. “Hmm, you want your skate-scooter now but mummy forgot to bring it out for you today. What can we do about it?” If it’s the first few times you’re problem-solving together, maybe give some prompts or suggestions as starters. (“Hmm, shall we race home and see who gets to the scooter first?)

You’ll be surprised. Sometimes your child will come up with his own creative solution; at the very least it will distract him from his overflowing emotions and start thinking, which is exactly what you want.

4. Label their feelings.

Give him the words to express his frustration. Eg., Are you feeling sad or mad? The funny thing is many emotions get expressed through (or covered up by) anger. When someone feels hurt or rejected or scared, it’s common to see them lashing out in anger. But it’s good for us to be able to recognise the actual emotion that’s going on and be able to process it in a healthy way.

The book I quoted above has this to say in relation to identifying feelings:

Repeat out loud what you think is occurring. If your child was hurt, let him experience hurt. If your child was afraid, let him experience fear. If your child was frustrated, let him experience frustration.

5. Give them avenues to express their emotions

We all need healthy ways to express our emotions, especially when they are overwhelming and negative. One way is  to talk about them with someone you trust. Now as much as you may find it unnatural to share about your feelings with your kids (especially when you’re feeling cranky or upset yourself), it actually helps them to see you model how it’s done.

After that unhappy episode with his lego, we started to play with some chalk. I suggested to JJ to draw out his feelings when his lego wouldn’t cooperate, and he drew an angry face on the ground. (See below) The next time, he gets unhappy with his toys or siblings, I’ll remember to ask him to DRAW his emotions out. Or maybe suggest that he release the negative energy by cycling up and down the block really fast. (I know going for a walk/run certainly helps to lift my mood!)

chalk drawing of angry face

6. Give opportunities for social and peer to peer interaction

Plan play dates. Or just head down to the playground regularly so he is able to make new friends, or play with existing ones. To be honest, sometimes I’m tempted to stay away from such play dates because of the 101 possibly negative things that could happen. But I realise that kids just need practice, and the more he socialises, the more he gets to learn about coping with another person’s demands or needs, and negotiating with others.

7. Use games as a tool

If you have simple boardgames that are age-appropriate for your kids, play with them. There are so many things that you can learn through games, such as how to be a gracious winner or loser, turn-taking, and being patient while waiting for the others to make their moves.

8 . The aftermath

This is an important stage of building emotional awareness. Take advantage of it; if you don’t, it’s like having a quarrel with your spouse and then sweeping it under the carpet. No one learns anything from it, and the incident is very likely to repeat itself.

The aftermath is where you are both calm and able to think back to the incident and explore questions like, “How did you feel when [incident] happened?” and “What can we do differently next time?”

9. Seize teachable moments

Teachable moments crop up every day, and the best way to impart emotion skills is to seize these moments.

Our children are constantly showing us how they feel through their facial expressions, how tightly they hold our hands, or by their tentative walk. We can take these precious times to talk with them how they feel and to listen and share our own feelings. Parents and teachers often don’t take the time to talk about feelings, and yet when we do, we get enormous rewards. We give our children a vocabulary that will help them navigate through the difficult moments and celebrate the great moments with others. These are the children who will be there and to say “Love you.” – Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn

What are some strategies that you employ at home to train your kids emotionally? Please share them with us in the comments below.

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{Giveaway} Catch Mister Maker and The Shapes Live On Stage In Singapore!

The crazy popular CBeebies’ Mister Maker is coming to the sunny shores of Singapore, for the very first time!

On his first ever live theatre tour in Singapore from 10 to 12 June 2016, Mister Maker and his fabulous supporting cast will definitely be getting kids of all ages and grown-ups to sing, dance and make some noise.

MisterMaker&TheShapesLive-06

This is one interactive live show you won’t want to miss! There’s a big ‘make’ to take part in, lots of audience participation and of course…The Shapes!

MisterMaker&TheShapesLive-29 (1)

Expect lots of energy, fun and arty craft, and lots of laughter!

If you haven’t caught Mister Maker in action before, now is the time to start. Mister Maker is the ultimate arts and craft show for pre-schoolers and early primary years which teaches and entertains in fun and imaginative ways. He is a real life character who gets his inspiration to make art from everything and anything around him. Kids in Singapore can catch Mister Maker on CBeebies (StarHub Channel 303) daily from 10am to 10.40am.

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

Thanks to Sliding Doors Entertainment, one lucky reader will stand to win 4 tickets to catch Mister Maker and the Shapes live on stage on 12 JUNE 2016, Sunday, at 5pm!! The venue is at D’Marquee Downtown East Paris Ris. (The tickets are valued at a total of $440.)

To enter, just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter app below. Hurry, this giveaway is open to all Singapore residents, and closes 29 May, 11.59pm. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss your chance to catch Mister Maker and the Shapes live on stage! There are only 7 shows available this season!
Friday 10 June: 6:00pm
Saturday 11 June: 12:00pm, 3:00pm and 5:30pm
Sunday 12 June: 10:30pm, 2:00pm and 5:00pm

Tickets are on sale from Sistic now!

Children learn what they live – a beautiful lesson in parenting

I chanced upon a poem at a doctor’s clinic one day, and was quite struck by it. I googled and found it was written by a lady called Dorothy Law Nolte, an American writer and family counsellor.

Living in a very academic-driven society and time, children of all ages are busy attending one tuition/enrichment class after another. Our children learn all sorts of things. They are knowledgeable in many areas. But this beautiful poem reminds me that some of the most important things in life are learnt through daily living, the most mundane things that show our attitudes to our children in our daily interactions. How much we affirm them versus how much we express our disdain or criticism of them.

Values and virtues cannot be taught in a class. They can only be observed and followed, and we are our children’s primary role models. If we want our children to make a positive difference in this world, they need to be seeing us walk the talk first.

Enjoy the poem, and remember to pin it or share this post!

PS. You can read the full poem (and excerpt of the book that was developed from it) here.

Children learn what they live

What to do when there’s something stuck in your child’s nose

We had a bit of a saga last weekend when our middle boy woke us with his screaming. It took us 2 seconds to snap awake, and another 10 seconds to register that he had got a saga seed stuck in his nose.

My first reaction… “What??! How did you…Urgh, nevermind.”

Second was “Boys…”

By this time, the husband was deep in the boy’s nose, peering into it and muttering an expletive under his breath.

“Oh sh..seeeed”

Okay, that sounds bad, I thought. But he was relatively calm and clear-headed so I decided to take another approach — I consulted Google…and found some tips on what to do / not to do:

1) Keep calm. And blow out.

Cover the unaffected nostril and show your child how to blow out from the “stuck” nose. With young children, they may not be able to coordinate their actions well, so be calm and clear in your instructions. Say, “I will cover one nostril, then you breathe in using your mouth, and breathe out with your nose. Like this.” Then show it to him, or better yet, do it with him. Once he gets it, encourage him to blow out with greater strength.

Note: This may not work well with a child below 3 years old.

2) Don’t use a long object to poke into the nose.

You may end up pushing the object deeper in, or worse, make it go down the throat.

3) Do mouth-to-mouth.

We didn’t actually get to this stage, but it apparently works like a charm. Get someone to seal the good nostril with a clean finger, then proceed to blow into your toddler’s mouth. The offensive object should shoot straight out in a jiffy. (PS. I hope you never have to try this one out, but let me know how it goes if you have!)

4) Suck it out.

If you have a NoseFrida nasal aspirator at home, try using it to suck the object out. This will be useful for a child who is younger, who doesn’t yet know how to blow his nose properly. (Update: A kind doctor friend of mine, who incidentally also blogged about this, left me a note saying this could potentially backfire if the person administrating it isn’t calm enough, as he or she may end up poking the aspirator all the way into the nose, making the situation worse. So if you’re not confident, please don’t try this at home.)

5) Monitor over the next few days.

Be sure to watch for signs of infection, such as a foul smell or bleeding.

6) Remove all small items (seeds/peas/pebbles) in the house that lie within reach of the kids. Hide them well or chuck them away.

If everything fails, or if your child has difficulty breathing, call your doctor or bring your child to A&E. Remember to bring along some snacks and toys, to keep the little one happy while waiting.

***So thankfully, the saga seed was blown out of my boy’s nostril, after he followed his dad’s instructions. (Kudos to daddy, who remained calm and level-headed for the most part.)

Now I love collecting saga seeds with my kids, but this event was a huge turn-off for me, and I don’t think I can bear looking at another seed for the next few months.

Has your child stuck something up their noses recently? What was it and how did you resolve it?

seed stuck in nose

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