Build Emotional Intelligence

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

Emotions Charts Download to help your child develop his Emotional Intelligence
from Sunflower Storytime, TotSchooling, and Bougribouillons

How to receive this download package?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and tomorrow we’ll send you the collection by email.

Feelings faces by Sunflower Storytime

Download the chart here.

Emotional Intelligence

What is it?  (Besides a buzz word)

Do I have it?  Do my precious kids?

What difference would Emotional Intelligence make in my home?

In Psychology Magazine, Dan Goleman, PhD. and author of The Brain and Emotional Intelligence describes EI as both a self and other-focused process:

Emotional Intelligence refers to two kinds of focus.

First: an inward awareness of our thoughts and our feelings, and applying that in managing our upsets and focus on our goal.

Second: a focus on others, to empathize and understand them, and on the basis of this to have effective interactions and relationships.

The first step is emotion-awareness.

Then, the ability to name our feelings gets us launching on managing them.

How many emotions can your children identify and name?

Today’s gift helps you do just that.

Fun facts about emotions:

Feelings are neither good nor bad emotions.

It is good to be angry at rape and human trafficking.

You and your child can discuss whether it is good or bad to be happy at someone else’s bad news (!)

Emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and intimately linked.

Which comes first:  The thought that we are in a dangerous situation, or the feeling “I’m scared,” or getting out of there as soon as possible?

This is the subject of much scientific debate…and not of this blog post.  Suffice it to know that these three facets of emotions are indissociable.

Did you know that you can even create a happy mood by biting (not tooooo hard) on a pencil with your mouth?  This biting process (behavior) stimulates the same muscles used to smile, thus sends messages to the brain (thinking) to create dopamine, the feel good hormone (emotion).

Emotions have BOTH universal AND cultural expressions

Before the 1970’s, anthropologists believed facial expressions reflected cultural interpretations. Psychologist and behavioral scientist Paul Ekman developed systematic ways to measure body language and identified 6 basic emotions which are universal throughout human cultures.

fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, and sadness.

Of course, there are MANY MORE emotions, and some believe more internationally universal ones too.

Emotions can be described by ONE word.

“I feel like the freshness of feet crush fresh grass sprinkled with morning dew.”

This sure sounds loverrrrly.  It’s not an emotion.

The associated feeling could be surprised, or uncomfortable, or refreshed, or …. (wet is not an emotion.  It’s a physical state 🙂 )

 

Teaching our Children to Identify and Express Emotion

Your usually-cheerful child comes home in a bad mood.  What is he feeling?  He might not even be able to put words to it!

Help him decompress by helping him identify his feelings.

Little tykes relate well to these colorful and expressive emotions faces from Sunflower Storytime.  Print them out and place them in an accessible place.  When your child stomps/slouches/jumps/slumps in, steer him towards the emotions faces and begin a healing time for all.

And if your child is not ready to communicate, don’t worry.  In five minutes, she might!  Let her know you are available.

“When you want to let me know how you’re feeling, come find me, darling.”  And smile.

Because YES our brains are also wired to mimic others.  Your happy mood (or your miserable one….) is contagious too.

 

More resources

I love these universal language, colorful faces on the chart by Sunflower Storytime.  You might prefer another style.  In addition, if your feelings charts include words you’ll be enriching their emotional vocabulary.

Check out these sites for alternatives.

ACN Latitudes – The Association for Comprehensive Neurotherapy has a comprehensive collection of downloadable chart for all occasions.

TotSchooling – I LOVE these Christmas emotions charts.  Prepare to avoid the meltdown when your child does not receive the gift they requested DAILY from Santa.

Bougribouillons – These charts (in French) might be more suited to older children.  Using charts in another language is a great stimulation for you and your family; it provides you with the liberty to develop your own family’s feeling vocabulary.  “What does ‘rassuré’ mean?… What does it look like to you? What words could we use in our home?”

La Famille Positive – This is where I found out about Bougribouillons. Edna Guccia hunts down positive advice (and shares some of own her wisdom).  If you are looking for French resources, well, she’s One. Great. Resource!

 

Thanks to Austin Chan for his photo on Unsplash

Car-less Paris

Practice makes Prepared (not Perfect)

Yesterday, I experienced Practice makes Prepared…and ended up having a “perfect” outing, despite the rain and the sweat!

Prepared not Perfect while biking in Paris

Yesterday was decreed “No-car-day” in Paris.  We live outside of the city and usually drive in for church on Sundays.

Instead, I bicycled into town.

In my 30 years of living in Paris, this marks the fourth day of my cycling adventures in the city.  Three of them were on no-car days and the other was at 1:30 a.m. (Don’t ask.) Enough to have learned from past experiences (mistakes) and to be prepared to fully enjoy this ride.

I (kind of) had a checklist.

Equipment:

  • Bike & lock
  • Helmet
  • Shoes for biking
  • Extra shoes to look chic
  • Pants that worked for BOTH sports AND fashion
  • Bag to manage the transition between my two “looks”

…and felt ready to roll.

The list was far from perfect.

Under the light drizzle, I would have done better with a waterproof jacket.  Jean jackets get wet…and so do the bodies wearing them.  Learning for next time.

I got lost.  Upon returning home I downloaded the Paris bike-route app.

Not Perfect.  Still wonderful.  And way better than before.

Prepared or Perfect in Parenting?

What are our expectations as parents? 

Truth be told, for many years I expected close-to-perfection from my kids.  These reflected some of the messages I had assimilated, and without thinking, was transmitting to my children.

  • Do it right the first time around
  • I said it once. Five minutes ago.  It should be done by now.
  • Act your age (meaning “Act like an adult!!”)
  • Do as I say…and follow the good examples of what I do
    (and ignore the bad examples)
  • Know what I mean, even when I don’t explain it

But I missed enjoying my children and feeling that home was sweet.

Hummm.  Either I would have to change my hopes (happy with kids) or change my demand for idealized behavior.

In this vulnerable, question-filled mindset, I became aware of alternative messages from a wide variety of “philosophers”

Practice makes prepared to learn from mistakes.  Prepared to grow.

Prepared to plan ahead.  Prepared to be intentional.

Prepared to be creative.

Prepared to do the best you can no matter what comes your way…with the confidence there will probably be a next time when you can do even better.

Kids Prefer Prepared over Perfect

This paradigm shift in my mind translated into allowing the children to be responsible for their mistakes (so what will you do about it?) AND their successes (You must be proud of yourself).

Here’s what it sounds like at our dinner table:

Before – when I was expecting perfection –

Child (with mouth full): “Today…”

Me: “The table is a place for pleasant conversation and good manners.  Please speak when you finished chewing.”

In my search for perfection, I interrupted their creativity and zest for learning!!! Agghhh!

Now – when I am learning about preparation –

Me: “Guys, I am so disappointed in myself…” and I shared about how a professional opportunity slipped by and what that mishap is teaching me to do differently.

Later that week, as I was leaving for work, my lackadaisical son piped up, “Don’t miss an opportunity today, Mom.  Look out for it and go for it!”

My son is getting prepared for life through my imperfections!

Will you let go of perfection for your children to gain their preparation for life?

Will you let go of perfection for your children to gain their preparation for life? Click to Tweet

Everyone wins.  Ready to roll?!

Cover photo from LeParisien 2016 Journée Sans Voiture Paris

 

 

Driving in England on the left

Boost Confidence Tips from Driving in England (on the left)

We just dropped off our rental car at The Southampton, UK airport.

In England, they drive on the left side of the road.  I live in France and in the US where we drive “normally” (!!!), that is on the right side.

I had been apprehending this automotive experience and nervously stalled car while exiting parking lot.   “Mom, are you SURE you can handle this?” my sons inquired.  We survived.

WE THRIVED!!!!

It was hard.

[bctt tweet=My weakness contributed to our combined strength.  Asking for help boosted everyone’s confidence.]

Enjoy these precious parenting tips gleaned from our exotic automotive adventure:

  1. Enlist Help. My weakness contributed to our combined strength.
  2. Our focus determines our action plan. Look to the problems leads to fear-full measures.   Aim for the goal stimulates a solution-finding approach.
  3. Overcoming challenges builds, rather BOOSTS, confidence.

Boost Confidence –
Be weak to let others be strong

I made NO pretense about confidence.  I had a teeny amount.

If we could each contribute our small portion of confidence to the common pool, we could have enough…

“Boys, we can include a special adventure in our trip which would require driving.  I’m scared and would need your help.  Are you up for it?”

Warmed by the children’s encouragement, I reserved the car.

We then created two driver-assistant roles:

  • The navigator who would help identify the route to follow so that I could focus on the road.
  • The left-side driver coach who would remind me to stay in the correct lane!

Both guides proved vital.

“Yes, Mom, the clouds are beautiful…but could you keep your eyes on the road, PLEASE?!”

Of course I still missed multiple turns and took us on detours.  Some scenic detours.  Some traffic-filled delays.  No big deal.

The Unexpected

An unexpected difficulty superseded what I had anticipated as the greatest challenge.  I had feared swerving into the wrong lane.

Instead ended up driving off the road, sometimes barely missing cars parked on the left hand side!  This dilemma, the problem that had not even occurred to me, ended up being our greatest challenge.

We sure benefited from those warnings:

“Mom, careful of the parked cars!  You almost ran into it!!!”  How embarrassing.

“Mom, you’ve passed the white line and are driving off the side of the road…That was the sidewalk you hit.”  Oops.

“When they drive on the left, aren’t the slower traffic lanes on the left too?  At your speed, are you where you should be…?”  Feeling like beginner driver.

None of these comments bespoke, “Shining Star.” or “Wonder Mom.”  They all communicated, “Mom, we love you AND we are with you.”

Boost Confidence –
Focus on the Goal, not the Barriers

Courage, willingness to take risks, and foresight are qualities I seek to encourage in my children.

This driving adventure created an opportunity for me to model these qualities for my children.

They hear about them all the time.  This time, I could speak of their importance through actions, not merely with words.

One of our sons gets discouraged by academic challenges.  When he encounters a difficult math problem, he stops.

“Did you ask your teacher?  Could you get help from a friend?”  I inquire with the most positive intent.  He senses my concern and it feels like pressure to him.

My attempt to encourage backfires.  Instead my child returns to his math homework, repeats his mistakes, and gives up anew.  It’s like he reinvests in his losing strategy.

I wonder if he believes “Smart people don’t ask for help.”    It’s an incorrect belief.  And it’s bringing him down.

[bctt tweet=”Does my child believe that “Smart people don’t ask for help.” It’s false.  And it’s debilitating.”]

He and I converse about this.  And there is a time to stop talking (Now!) or I too would be reinvesting in my losing strategy!

This driving challenge provided the opportunity to model the behavior I seek in him.  I could speak through actions instead of with words.  Through a fun adventure I showed how

  • To set a worthwhile goal that reaches beyond the comfort zone
  • To identify potential challenges
  • To secure help to overcome them
  • To celebrate victories!!!

Boost Confidence by Overcoming Challenges

While standing in line at the airport, I smilingly confessed, “I’m proud of myself.  I did something difficult”…

In unison, the boys interrupted me to complete the sentence: “AND YOU SUCCEEDED!”

In fact, we succeeded together and, thanks to the rented car and the additional flexibility it provided, we were able to visit Stonehenge, one of the great prehistoric sites…located deep in the English countryside.

Flying high with confidence now!
Teen bursting with confidence at Stonehenge.

…Surprise!  The REAL travel adventure ended up being our flight back to Paris on a propeller plane!

Encourage Appropriate Behavior in Kids: Parenting Tips inspired by Snow!

It has been snowing all week.  Every day.  All day.  Every night.

We go to the mountains to have snow, but deeeeep down, here is my real wish:  I awake every morning to optimal ski conditions.  Abracadabra.

Snow fall, ski slope grooming, and snow plowing would have all happened during my sleep 🙂

Do parents have a similar wish for their children’s good behavior?

Mom or Dad ask for a clean room.  Like magic children’s toys are put away, the floor in spotless, the books are neatly stacked on the bookshelves, the bed is made, and the desk is cleared and ready-for-work.  “Aussitôt dit.  Aussitôt fait.”  Say the word, and it’s done.  Just to our liking, no less!

No need for any teaching, training, or follow through!

We moms and dads must have received our parenting tips straight Mary Poppins and Nanny MacFee.  Or maybe our children were born with an innate understanding of what parents consider appropriate behavior…

Ski cabin "Shelter" in snow
“Abri” means shelter

Children skiing and falling in snow

Cars covered in snow

Appropriate Behavior – Down to Earth Parenting Reality

Just as we adults benefit from training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to be able to behave well.

[bctt tweet=”Like adults who get training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to  perform well. “]

Think about it.  Did our sons and daughters clean their room in the womb?  Did our babes learn proper table manners at the breast?

We parents often teach through discipline.  We tell our kids what is wrong.  “Your room is messy.”  “Elbows off the table, please.”    

How do they find out what is desirable behavior?  Is there a more appropriate and encouraging way than through trial and error?

Would you like your boss to keep on telling you, “NO,” until you get it right?  How motivating is that?!

Snow Inspired Parenting Tips for Teaching Kids

1. Enjoy the magic of NOW

Earth stills when snow falls. 

Sounds are muted.  Senses are chilled.  Worries from the office seem faaaaaarrrrrr away.

These extraordinary apprenticeship years of our kids are precious and last such a short while.   Sooner than later our kids graduate and move out.

What life skills and talents do our children take with them as they go out on their own?  THIS is our parenting vocation.

My mother is celebrating a BIG birthday and we are writing her letters of thanks.  I realized that I have many more memories with her AFTER having left home than while I was a child.

The birthday parties I recall through photos.

Here is what I remember through experience and which lives in my soul:  the ambiance of love, the assurance that she had time for me, and her belief in my potential (especially when I acted out of line).

These qualities are communicated by savoring the present.  The magic of small successes.  Noticing appropriate behavior.  Appreciating hard work.  Encouraging me to persevere.

Aren’t those life skills you wish to pass onto your darlings?

Happy grandma cuddling children

Loving grandmother keeps grandkids coming home

 

Admiring grandmother taking photos

2. Slow down before crashing

I love skiing FAST.

Except when there is no visibility and I wonder if I am about to speedily crash and plant my face into fresh powder.

When it snows, it is time to slow down.  Just a tad.

When your child misbehaves, might it be an invitation to shift into a lower gear? 

  • What is the cause of the inappropriate behavior?
  • Do the children even know exactly what is expected of them?
  • Do they have the capability of carrying out those tasks?
  • What could help them succeed even better?

In manufacturing circles, we refer to a bottleneck: THE operation that slows the entire process down.

No matter how much we improve other aspects of the manufacturing cycle, the process will only improve when we address THAT critical juncture.

Where is the weak point in your child’s ability to carry out your request?  Slowing down helps you observe your sweethearts and identify their appropriate behavior “bottleneck.”

Are they not listening to instructions?

That’s a sure guarantee of misbehavior!  So, the parenting issue to address is getting their attention before giving instructions.

Bend down to their level, make eye contact, smile, and THEN stipulate, “Honey, it is time to clean your room.”

Do the toys not have a home?

Playthings are tumbled into a box.  To reach that one desired game, your child rummages through the entire stack (a.k.a. dumps them all over the floor).  The issue is too many toys or finding a better way to store games.

“Sweetheart, you like a comfy home.  Your toys want to be more comfortable too.  Here are two boxes: toys-at-home and toys-on-vacation.  Do you want to choose which toys go on vacation this week or should I?  YOU can change every weekend!”

Slowing down helps identify your child’s unique bottleneck.

3. Break down the big job into smaller steps.

When it snows, visibility is reduced which renders many skiers less comfortable on the slopes.  That’s when we CONSCIOUSLY rely on ski technique:  bending down further to propel us through the turns in heavy snow, maintaining supple knees to  absorb obstacles we no longer see, keeping our body weight correctly balanced over the skis…

Many of these gestures we do without thinking…until it snows and we once again recall and apply our technique.

In a similar way, when training the kids, why not break down a large task into its many smaller bits.

If our initial instructions (ex. clean your room) seems foggy to the kids, let us help them return to their comfort zone by reviewing the individual steps required for success of the total “project” (and securing appropriate behavior can seem like a PROJECT).

A clean room means

  • Nothing on the floor
  • The bed is made…and nothing is hiding under it
  • Clothes are put in the appropriate drawers
  • Toys and books are placed their assigned home
  • The desk has space to be able to work correctly

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: make bed

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: stack books

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: clear desk

Think of our children’s tasks like a gourmet dish.  There is a recipe to follow.  Step by step.

If it’s good enough for the best chefs in the world, I’ll give it a go in our home too 🙂

4. Specify the criteria for “acceptable behavior” and “very well done.”

After snowfall, some slopes get plowed and others are left virgin.  Different strokes for different folks.

A good skier can master the smooth surfaces even with minimal visibility.  An excellent skier dances through the powder.

“Sweetheart, a cleanish room is when the bed is made and the clothes are off the floor.  A super-dooper-totally-awesomely-amazingly-clean room is when you also put your socks in the sock drawer, your shirts in the shirt drawer….”

5. Celebrate performance

A steaming hot chocolate and warm (greasy) fries taste especially delicious when coming in from difficult ski conditions.

“Darling.  Well done.”

Teen boys and kids warming up from skiing

Upon leaving our mountain chalet, we clean up.  Kids help with the chores.  During one vacation with my sister and her family, our Make-A-Loud-Fuss son resisted doing his job:  to clean the bathroom sink & mirror.

She taught him the secret to super-shiny-bathroom-cleaning (Spray the chrome with window cleaner.  It sparkles!) and off he went.

He made the chrome sparkle.

My sister rounded up the crew of siblings and cousins and they ALL marched to the bathroom to recognize a job well done.

Since that day, Mr.Fuss REQUESTS bathroom cleaning.  He is the recognized family expert on appropriate bathroom cleanliness.  We have delegated to him the responsibility of coaching his brothers on quality control.

That’s a win-win situation!

Children parade to congratulate appropriate behavior
Ready? Set. Go! checking out the spotless bathroom.

Children parade to check out clean bathroom

Proud teen and admiring brother
Our cool dude still takes pride in “clean.”

Helping our Kids Learn Appropriate Behavior

How would you and your family’s life be different if you took a fresh look at a “bad news” situation?

  • What one special thing can you appreciate about this time of life right NOW?
  • What is REALLY happening? Slowing down enables fresh observation.
  • What behavior do you, the parent, desire? What are intermediate steps?
  • How can you help your children differentiate between good and great?
  • How will you encourage REPEATED excellent behavior?