Bullying can ruin a child’s self-esteem. However, we parents are not helpless when our child comes home upset about being a target. The first step to prevent bullying starts with building your own emotional intelligence skills. Unlike IQ, which we are born with, emotional intelligence or “EQ” (emotional quotient) can be increased by some simple exercises. The simple definition of emotional intelligence is being smart with emotions.
Here are three ways to learn about your emotional reactions so you can be a good model for your kids.
1. Know Yourself
Knowing yourself is about increasing self-awareness, as well as recognizing patterns and feelings. It helps you understand what “makes people tick”.
Encourage your kids to be curious about their emotions and those of others. This will help develop the ability to accurately recognize and appropriately express emotions. Emotional literacy can facilitate greater understanding, bridge differing viewpoints, and prevent kids from ostracizing and dehumanizing others.
One way to practice emotional literacy with your kids is with a mirror, piece of paper, and pencil. Take turns picking and expressing an emotion, observe the facial expression in your mirror, then (from memory) draw a picture of that emotion. Warning: the exercise may lead to lots of laughter.
2. Choose Yourself
This is about building self-management and self-direction. It’s the ability to consciously choose your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
We can teach our children to apply consequential thinking. This is the ability to pause and assess the influence of feelings so that we are careful about our choices. Help your kids learn to ask themselves what will happen if they act in a certain way. For example, if I hit the bully back, what will happen next?
When we teach kids to engage their intrinsic motivation, they respond and act on their own feelings rather than those of other people. This inner compass will take years to develop, but it starts with something as simple as letting the mismatched socks go to school! For kids to believe that they can shape the world around them, they need to practice with making decisions from early in life. As Babara Colorosso, author of The Bully, Bullied and the Bystander suggests, one of the most critical life messages that we should send our kids is, “I have agency in my life.”
Practice optimism. Especially for victims of willful acts of meanness, optimism is probably the most powerful EQ skill. Help your children see that adversity is a temporary (T) and isolated (I) situation that can be changed with personal effort (E). Utilizing TIE is an effective way for many kids to deal with adversity in life.
3. Give Yourself
This is about aligning your daily choices with your larger sense of purpose. It comes from using empathy and the value-based decision-making.
All of us are born with the capacity for empathy. Like any muscle in our body, empathy can be strengthened through intentional practice so that we can turn intentions into habits. Ask your child to imagine how a classmate who is being bullied feels, then explore ways they can respond (you can model this).
Finally, children also need to feel connected to something larger than themselves. Pursuing a noble goal can start with something as simple as connecting to nature. Children can be taught to align their daily choices with the principles and purpose of kindness and service to others. They can participate in pro-social acts, such as sharing, cooperating, or helping, without expecting personal benefit or reward.
Here’s an applicable quote from the Dali Lama Foundation, “For children to learn kindness, we need to surround them with compassion and kindness. Nurturant environments are rich with acceptance, tolerance and empathy and we can build these environments in the every day places that children live.”
When we parent through consciousness (Know Yourself), choices (Choose Yourself), and connection (Give Yourself), we afford our children and ourselves space to develop the skills of emotional intelligence to prepare them for dealing with the array of adverse situations in their lives.
For free emotional intelligence parenting courses and other resources, please check out 6Seconds.
Featured photo credit: Little Girl in Amusement Park via picjumbo.com
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