To not keep cluttering up Able_Jack’s journal, I thought I’d start a thread discussing ideas for modeling or teaching emotional health to kiddos. I know it’s not directly linked to money, but I think sound decision-making as a whole starts with lessons around wants and feelings. Now that a lot of my friends have babies and toddlers, I’ve been discussing this more in my life and I learn new things from friends that help me too.
With the caveat that different kids have different personalities, and some may need more positive reinforcement than others, in my own life the biggest keys for teaching my kiddo resilience and emotional awareness was honesty and talking talking talking, about everything in life, because everything is intertwined and builds on everything else. I should note my personal parenting philosophy is that kids know exactly who they are from the get go, and my job is to give them the tools to navigate their life while questioning the status quo, especially as a middle class white family in the US. Basically our general parenting tactic, covering all topics from day one, was to talk about how interactions with the world make us feel and then talk through what we wanted to do about it.
Things we did specifically to encourage our son to work through his emotions and practice empathy:
Talked about feelings as just that, rather than as identity i.e. “I feel sadness” instead of “I am sad”.
Listing something good that happened during his day
Listing something that made him happy
Listing something that made him sad or frustrated
Listing something we wanted to do differently next time
Listing something that made someone else happy or sad or frustrated
We started these conversations well before he could talk. Basically we wanted to establish the pattern of reflection, discernment, and problem solving as an ongoing thing. We actually did this for ourselves, really, and just included him in the conversation.
My son’s dad kept a detailed journal with our kiddo and oh, do I adore how toddlers think! These lists are especially funny when they have no concept of time or motive.
We also made a point to talk about strengths and weaknesses and the importance of failure. He was not naturally a gracious loser so there were a lot of conversations about it being ok to feel upset but some things are just going to be harder to be good at. Sometimes people practice every day and get better; sometimes people are just not ever going to be good at something they wish they were good at. Both his dad and myself had to work through perfectionist tendencies through early adulthood and didn’t want our son to develop that angst.
When he was little, we framed it very simply, with identifying the emotion, then offering binary choices. Like:
“It looks like you feel frustration that this puzzle is really hard for you. Is that what you are feeling? “
“Ok, well you can try again, or put it away for now. Try again? Ok, then you can try again on your own, or ask me for help. Which one feels right to you?”
Then while he worked on the puzzle just babbling along the lines of “It’s good to figure out things are hard for us. We can’t be good at everything but it’s good to try and to practice. It’s good to know when to ask for help.”
This did not come as easily to us as it sounds written down years later – we literally wrote down the verbal formula on a regular basis, so that we could be consistent even when crabby, and my son’s dad was waaaay better at this than I am even now.
How about you? I love hearing what works in different families, and I always learn something that I can use in my own life