Emotions are essential to understand because we are basically emotional beings. We enter the world with only our limbic system developed. This is the part of the brain where we have “gut” reactions, access safety, and emotions, pick up on non-verbal cues and store our long-term memory. It isn’t until around age 2 that we start to develop our logical brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Two Emotional Maturity Skills that are important for you to develop and teach your kids are
1. Recognizes other people’s feelings and
2. Expresses own feelings appropriately.
Every parent who struggles, and everyone does, brings up the difficulty of knowing how to deal with their emotions and their kids’ emotions. Parents try to control their frustrations, anger, fear, etc. yet feelings often take over and they “lose it.” The emotions get so intense that their logical brain shuts down and impulse control is disabled as a result.
When children are in preschool, Jaime Gleicher, LMSW, a behavioral therapist at Harstein Psychological Services Center in New York City, suggests talking with kids and helping them identify 4 basic emotions: anger, sadness, fear, and jealousy. When kids mature, their list of emotions increases along with their new life experiences.
What I noted with Jaime’s list was that she only listed “negative” or difficult feelings. “Happy” was not included. The positive emotions our kids express such as feeling joyful, proud, playful, appreciative, glad, tranquil, satisfied, eager, elated, and confident, bring us good feelings as well and are therefore easy to feel. It’s the “difficult” feelings that throw us for a loop. Often because we get off kilter, we label them as “bad” feelings and try to take these feelings away from our kids in various ways.
So, rather than understanding our thoughts about an interaction with our child that triggers our negative feelings, we often try to find ways to stop the child’s behavior. A dad reported a very challenging situation that he recently had with his 9-year-old son. His son came home from a long day tired and hungry and needing food. The dad started preparing it and his son started hitting him. The dad’s first reaction was to calmly tell his son to stop. (I thought being calm was pretty amazing.)
However, his son continued. So the idea of trying to stop the child’s behavior didn’t work because his son’s emotions were raging and he wasn’t able to manage them even at his father’s request. His child’s thinking brain had shut down. Using logic with his son by telling him that he was preparing food didn’t make a difference.
Usually difficult interactions repeat themselves so I suggest taking time to evaluate your own reaction and your child’s. Emotional Maturity Skill – Recognize other people’s feelings
In this situation, and any other where emotions are raging and you are at a loss, the first step is to understand the root cause of your emotions and then your child’s. Difficult interactions repeat themselves so I suggest taking time to evaluate your own reaction using the Think-Feel-Do Cycle format. You can start to understand the Think-Feel-Do Cycle HERE.
Once you can help your child express their feelings more appropriately, often by using empathetic phrases, then their emotions will be released so they can think more rationally again and act accordingly.
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Copyright 2022 – Cynthia Klein, Family Happiness Expert – Coach, speaker, and author of Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. Learn more about Cynthia’s services and contact her at her website, https://bridges2understanding.com. Contact Cynthia for permission to reproduce any information from this article.