Raising the Emotional Intelligence of Parents and Children
The regular practice of Compassionate Parenting will increase cooperation, self-esteem, and self-discipline, while simultaneously reducing anger, resentment, and hostility in children and parents. You will have better relationships with your children, while enjoying them, guiding them, and learning from them. The manual for this 8-week course is filled with parenting advice, tips, information about family issues, effective parenting skills, and parent resources, as well as information that can help with your marriage.
Compassionate Parenting raises emotional intelligence through heavy emphasis on before-the-fact emotional motivation of behavior, rather than after-the-fact consequences. The result is much more effective discipline that does nothing to detract from the crucial relationship between parents and children.
Compassionate Parenting Package
(PowerPoint introduction and three .pdf files)
Compassionate Parenting Manual An 8-session course for resentful, angry, anxious, and overwhelmed parents. Create deeper parent-child connections through increased interest and enjoyment. Empowering-discipline helps children achieve optimal growth, development, cooperation skills, and moral courage. Research shows that children learn to regulate their emotions, eliminate temper tantrums, and reduce bad behavior when they can put their feelings into words. When the brain has no way to label or otherwise discriminate among the various meanings it gives to events and behaviors, it tends to funnel all emotional response into the form of arousal that gives the most temporary power: anger. Sample dialogue shows how to teach key vocabulary words to children.
My Good Heart: Drawing the Greatness Inside You This drawing book, for ages 5 to 8, presents a fun, non-preachy format for learning compassion, anger-regulation, and core value. Notes for Parents: The My Good Heart drawing book reinforces the core value of children. Core value forms the foundation of self-esteem, competence, creativity, achievement, self-care, and compassion.
The good heart concept helps children build internal regulation of emotions and impulses to prevent the ordinary experience of disappointment, anxiety, sadness, and anger from devaluing the sense of self. It helps them learn compassion for themselves and for others. Care givers can reinforce the power of the Good Heart by saying something like:
“Rub your Good Heart to make it better.”
Children get in touch with their own core value when encouraged to look for value in other people, even difficult people.
“You recognized the Good Heart of another person!”
Children will want to know about other kids acting out and adults doing cruel things. Emphasize that misbehaving children and cruel adults are not devoid of Good Hearts. Rather, they are merely out of touch with them. This same thought, incorporated into normal safety precautions for children, can be expressed as:
“Because some people are out of touch with their Good Hearts, you need to be careful not to talk to strangers.”
A Deeper Understanding of Your Children
Try this experiment. Draw what you think your child will draw. Then compare your drawing with the child’s
A Note for Professionals
The My Good Heart drawings provide a wealth of diagnostic and treatment material. Choices of color, figures, shadows, etc., have the usual art therapy significance. The book as a whole has been used as a pre and post test to measure the effectiveness of treatment. Children enjoy drawing in the book and usually want to return to favorite sections of it repeatedly in the course of treatment.
Basic Humanity: How Your Emotions Guide Your Core Value
This 46-page booklet asks a series of questions that help adolescents develop a sense of their innate core value, which is the ultimate guide for their behavior and the foundation of their morality. For ages 12-18.
Compassionate Parenting Package: $9.95
Compassionate Parenting coaching is now available from CompassionPower associate, Anne Marie Askin. Dr. Stosny’s long-time assistant offers 2-day online courses, as well as private coaching. Click here for information.
Anger at Our Children: They’re Supposed to Make Us Feel Inadequate
Those same little creatures who look like angels when they sleep can, without a moment’s notice, cause headaches, jangled nerves, strained muscles, aching bones, and overloaded emotional circuits.
But there’s one thing that even the most exuberant or obstinate of children cannot do. They can’t make us angry.
To be sure, our children can make us feel inadequate as parents. But they can only seem to make us angry – and want to punish them – when we confuse feelings of inadequacy with failure. Most of our anger at our children is to punish them for reminding us that we sometimes feel like failures as parents.
Feelings of Inadequacy are Motivations Before we know how to do anything, we feel inadequate at doing it. The discomfort of feeling inadequate is an integral part of the motivation to learn how to do the task at hand. Few things are more satisfying in life than replacing feelings of inadequacy with a sense of competence or mastery. This is true of everything important that we learn to do, from reading and writing, playing a sport, driving a car, to making love.
But there are few areas in which the motivational force of feeling inadequate is more important than in parenting. No child comes with a manual, and every child is unique. Feelings of inadequacy occur when we are jarred out of preconceived notions of what children need or what they should be like or how they ought to respond to us.
The only thing that relieves the sense of inadequacy as a parent is focus on the individual needs of each child as separate from our ideas and feelings. Feelings of inadequacy force us to stop seeing the child as a source of emotion for us and, instead, allow the needs of the child to teach us to be good parents of that unique child. Anger occurs when we blame children for doing their part in the interaction, namely, making us feel inadequate.
Though it is a factor in all distressed parent-child interactions, misinterpreting feelings of inadequacy can take on a tragic dimension. For example, a crying baby for some people becomes a signal not of the child’s needs but of the parent’s abject failure. The inability to comfort a distressed baby, or at least stop the crying, is the leading cause of child abuse, shaken baby syndrome, and infanticide.
Why Anger is a Problem in Families An automatic response triggered whenever we feel threatened, anger is the most powerful of all emotional experience. The only emotion that activates every muscle group and organ of the body, anger exists to mobilize the instinctual fight or flight response meant to protect us from predation. Of course, our children are not predators. Applying this survival-level fight or flight response to everyday problems of family life is like using a rock to turn off a lamp or a tank to repair a computer.
Is anyone really stupid enough to turn off a lamp with a rock? When angry, everybody is that stupid. Anger has nothing to do with intelligence; it has everything to do with how vulnerable we feel. Psychological vulnerability depends a lot on how you feel about yourself. When genuine self-value (as opposed to inflated ego) is low, anything can make you irritable or angry. When self-value is high, the insults and frustrations of life just roll off your back.
For instance, if you’ve had a bad day, and you’re feeling a little guilty, God forbid a little bit like a loser, or you’re just feeling disregarded or devalued, you might come home to find your kid’s shoes in the middle of the floor and respond with:
“That lazy, selfish, inconsiderate, little brat!”
Then, too, you can come home after a great day of feeling fine about yourself, see the same shoes in the middle of the floor and think, “Oh, that’s just Jimmy,” and not think twice about it.
The difference in your reaction to the child’s behavior lies entirely within you and depends completely on how you feel about yourself. In the first case the child’s behavior seems to diminish your sense of self, and the anger is to punish him for doing it to you. In the second instance, the child’s behavior does not diminish your sense of personal importance, value, power, or lovability. So there is no need for anger. You don’t need a hammer to solve the problem of the shoes in the middle of the floor. Rather, the problem to be solved is how to teach the child to be more considerate in his behavior; you won’t do that by humiliating or scaring him with anger. His reaction to humiliation and fear will be the same as yours: an inability to see the other person’s perspective, an overwhelming urge to blame, and an impulse for retaliation or punishment. Anger comes with two motivations: avoid or attack. Can you think of a family problem that avoidance or attack will help?
Modeling Anger Regulation for Children I hate to be the one to break the news to you, if you haven’t already noticed, Your children do not learn emotional regulation from what you tell them. They learn by watching you. Actually, all mammals learn by a process called modeling, wherein the juveniles mimic the adults.
Although their intellectual maturity is far less advanced than that of their parents, children experience anger for the same reasons as adults, mostly to defend the sense of self from the pain of temporary diminishment. At the moment of anger, both children and adults feel bad about themselves. Making angry people feel worse about themselves can only make matters worse.
Children must learn to restore their sense of core value under stress. This means holding onto self-value when hurt or displeased, which helps them regulate the impulse for retaliation when they are angry. They will only learn this invaluable life skill by watching their parents.