Developing Emotional Intelligence in your child
“The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.”
“The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth.
You may be familiar with the Montessori philosophy of developing the whole child. Some people may think of this as offering the child arrange of experiences, objects or topics however it is also about helping the child to know who they are and the culture they are in.
When Montessori Teacher's train they do a lot of work around being a 'prepared adult' that is an adult who knows who they are and what makes them 'tick.' With my parent hat on I can see how I need to reflect often on who I am and why I am doing things or reacting a certain way. In theory this means that I am more measured and thoughtful in my responses and interactions with children.
Sometimes though it is hard to interact in a measured way. At the moment, for example, we have been going through some tough personal issues at home. These issues are not age appropriate for us to discuss with M however we have been clear in sharing our emotions with him. In our home, we are very open with emotions and our needs. For example, M may hear us say that we are feeling happy, annoyed, excited, sad, sick or need space.
We think this is important as we want M to be emotionally intelligent. There are many different definitions of emotional intelligence. We have listed some of the different areas of it and how we try and grow these things with a Montessori mindset.
To know about your emotions, strengths, weaknesses and values and recognise how these may impact others.
When reading books we sometimes discuss how characters may be feeling and talking about a time when M or we have felt like that.
When we see M is upset or stuck we ask him what he needs to help him. Sometimes this doesn't work and M may hit or shout when he has calmed down and had some space we talk with him about what happened and how we felt in the situation.
Recognize, understand, and consider other people’s feelings or views
When we see people in the street we may talk about how they seem to be feeling.
Nate and I sometimes talk out how we feel out loud "Nate thanks for making a yummy dinner, you are a good cook"
Being able to control oneself by oneself
This one isn't always easy! We try to help M by having a prepared environment with different places for him to play, rest or run around. When he is in a certain mood our hope is the set up of our house allows him the opportunity to do one of those things. Sometimes M needs help and we say "you look like you need .... can we help you with that?" Other times M is aware of what he needs and may ask for an audiobook or get out his wooden train set or play with his art supplies. A big area that we are working on is m know when he is hungry and getting himself food when he is hungry.
We don't assume to know all the answers about this emotional intelligence thing but I can tell you that its positive payoffs can be huge. Nate was recently sick and M asked him if he was okay and needed any medicine. A little later M said 'I hope Dad gets better soon' that empathy for others made my heart sing.
I'll leave the final line with Leo Buscaglia "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around"
You may also be interested in this article on Parenting and Teaching styles