As Goleman reminds us, “parents can help their children by coaching them emotionally, talking to them about their feelings and how to understand them, not being critical and judgmental, problem solving about emotional predicaments, coaching them on what do, like alternatives to hitting, or to withdrawing when your sad.”
And, when they (and we) make mistakes (as can be expected), we can teach our children how to handle a future situation more productively. Not unexpectedly, studies indicate the more parents are emotionally adept, the more their children are.
One mother had a startling, simple revelation recently. She relayed a typical incident of her two children (brother and sister) beginning to escalate their differences into shouting and perhaps hitting. She was about to scream at them (certain to escalate the situation even more) when she remembered to stop, breathe, and count to 10 before reacting.
This mom surprised herself (she really wanted to get angry and “act out”) and something miraculous happened. As she was calming herself down, using deep breathing and self-talk, her kids began to follow her lead. They too, stopped yelling, breathed and counted to 10. At that point they were able to talk through their problem and come up with a creative solution that satisfied and pleased everyone.
Clearly, education at all levels is warranted. There even seems to be a special part of our brain for such skills as emotional self-control and empathetic understanding, which continues to develop into late adolescence (16 to 18 years). Emotional habits acquired in childhood appear harder to change later in life, leading to a critical window of opportunity to help shape lifelong emotional propensities.
Teachers might say parents are responsible for such social competence. Parents might say it’s in the schools where children can best learn to get along with other children and develop social skills.
Who is responsible? The answer is we all are. With the devastating high rise of juvenile crime, depression, suicide, drug use, eating disorders, and anxiety, we seem to have a generation of emotionally disabled youngsters and everyone must become involved to help turn the tide.