By: Natasha Archary
We tend to focus on correcting misbehaviour as parents. Tantrums? Timeout. Endless crying? Stop it. Sssssh. Flinging objects? No, no, no.
There’s more to being a present parent than adjusting inappropriate behavior patterns. Of course, the careful disciplining of your child is an important part of your responsibility. But do we stop to consider whether the life lessons we’re instilling in our little ones are developing their emotional intelligence?
EQ vs IQ
Most parents focus solely on a child’s academic capabilities. Straight A’s don’t guarantee your child is ready to tackle the scary reality of life itself. Can your child handle a firm reprimand without tossing all his toys out of the box? Is he able to share with his peers without any pressure by an adult? Does your child express her emotions in a healthy way or are you met with a yelling child more often than not?
See, textbook smarts and emotional intellect are two sides of the same coin, if you want to raise a well-adjusted young person. With so much going on in the world and with social media responsible for grooming desensitized individuals, where is the heart in our parenting?
Validate those little people with the huge emotions
Just because your child is barely three, does not mean that their feelings are not a big deal. This is a crucial time to set in stone the foundation for your relationship and how you communicate going forward.
Yes, we’re all busy. Juggling multiple balls, while swinging from a trapeze, sipping a green juice, but nothing is more important than your child. Early childhood is when they absorb everything like sponges. Children learn through example not stern lecturing and this is key. They learn how to react to stressful situations from you.
At times it feels like I’m arguing with a stubborn, cuter, more determined and feistier version of myself. Have you ever butted heads with a toddler?
What’s important is that you pay attention to the physical, verbal and expressive cues. Yes, your child can, just as easily as you, have a bad day at school. They could have spent the day in somber solitude because they didn’t finish a task when the rest of the class did. His favourite snack may have fallen into the sand-pit at recess and he is just not in the mood to engage with you.
Your always talkative pre-teen spends the drive home in absolute silence, sulking. Instead of taking the typical authoritative approach as mom or dad, going off at her for this unbearable attitude, validate those emotions.
No one has time for these sensitivities
“I don’t have time for this right now. Either stop this childishness right now or go to your room.”
It’s every parent’s go-to response when their child “acts up”. You have a million things to get done, this little meltdown is an inconvenience you’d rather not deal with. We may have used different variations of this narrative at some point in our parenting diaries. This is likely because this is how our parents handled our meltdowns.
“If you can’t behave, go to your room. I will not tolerate this behavior.”
Cue. Angry child stomping off to bedroom and slamming door.
And then we get exasperated when our child refuses to open up to us? What do you expect when you’re basically letting them know that their feelings can wait?
Many parents hit this realization only after something tragic happens. Your child is being bullied at school? Toughen up. Don’t take it to heart. You’re bigger than this. Stop being petty.
We need to stop. As parents. Just stop for a second and understand that your child is not going to listen to you 24/7. They don’t come with a computer chip that deactivates their emotions and sensitivities. They feel. Sometimes a little too much.
Failing our children
Instead of constantly switching off when your child is trying to communicate with you, switch off everything else. Pay attention. To everything. Body language. Eating habits. Sleep patterns. How they are performing at school.
Are they withdrawing from close friends? Is your child going off food? What are they internalizing? Violence in schools is on the rise. Fatal stabbings and brutal attacks by youngsters on teachers and peers alike.
Research points to South African children being exposed to violence from birth. With 35 to 40% of children in country witnessing their mothers being beaten by a male and 15% reporting that their parents are too intoxicated to care for them.
We have got to do better. Be better. If this is what they come home to, how can we feign surprise when their outbursts turn violent as a result?
Emotionally aware children become emotionally intelligent adults. People who are capable of engaging in healthy relationships, maintain a stable professional life and groom in turn emotionally aware children.