"In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships."
--John Gottman, Ph.D.
I collect links to interesting articles and blog posts that I want to reference in my own writing. Many times, I don't get around to blogging before the links are a few months old, or I no longer remember what I wanted to say. I promised myself I would clear up my Google Reader before the new year though, so I am doing a roundup post on emotional intelligence. I could probably write individual posts, but they all seem related (at least in my mind).
Don't children want authority and limits? is an interesting read on the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) blog. I often argue with myself over this very issue when I am frustrated with the kids' behavior. I tell myself that they are out of control and therefore need me to tell them what to do, how to do it, and when. After all, they are just kids. It feels good to have that control, at least in my own mind, but it never works that way in reality. Like anyone being told what to do, they resist. I can't say I blame them, after all I do the same when given orders. Here's what P.E.T. says kids (no, humans) really want:
Children want and need information from their parents that will tell them the parent's feelings about their behavior, so that they themselves can modify behavior that might be unacceptable to the parents. However, children do not want the parent to try to limit or modify their behavior by using or threatening to use their authority. In short, children want to limit their behavior themselves if it becomes apparent to them that their behavior must be limited or modified. Children, like adults, prefer to be their own authority over their behavior.
...So parents should not expect, nor will their children expect of them, that they will be accepting of all behavior. What children have a right to expect, however, is that they always be told when their parents are not feeling accepting of a certain behavior...
It always seems so simple when I read it, but of course putting it into practice is hard. You can not simply inform a two year old that you do not accept their behavior and expect them to toddle away feeling secure in the knowledge that you aren't trying to boss them around. Heck, it doesn't even work like that on nine year olds. It's a process that takes years. I'm sure Dimples will be much more accepting by the time she is nine, while poor Robotson and I will have to spend much more time earning the others' trust in the process.
Which brings me to conflict resolutions. All of our agreements have been, or need to be reworked. For example, our bedtime resolution has remained the same, but there are still occasionally issues with Robotson not doing what he agreed. As a parent, it's extremely frustrating. As a former kid, I totally get not wanting to go to bed. I try to be empathetic, but it's really hard to hear his side when I feel the issue has been resolved already. Quite helpfully, right when we began working on conflict resolutions, Dale McGowan started his Can you hear me now? series. You should read them all, but what he wrote earlier this month in The Conversation (Part 10) is exactly what we are struggling to learn. His four steps for talking to Gramma fit right into Method III:
There are four important elements:
HONOR the person. You can continue to think whatever you wish about the person’s beliefs. But people deserve respect as people. Refuse to grant that and you have no basis for discourse. If nothing else, honor their intentions, which (however misguided you think they are) are usually good.
EMPATHIZE. Make a real effort to see things as s/he sees them.
REASSURE. Some of his or her concerns can’t be helped. Some can. Reduce the concerns by addressing those you can.
INCLUDE. This is huge. A clear gesture of inclusion can repair an immense amount of damage and bring down walls. Most people will respond to that generous gesture with a desire to not abuse it. For the rest, some reasonable limits can be placed.
To honor, empathize, and reassure are step one, define everyone’s needs, in Method III. The other five steps are about finding solutions together, which is his fourth step - to include.
So what happens when I forget that the kids don't need me to control them, or when they don't want to keep up their end of the conflict resolution? What do we do when tempers are flaring and no one is listening anymore? Christine Carter from Half Full: The Science for Raising Happy Kids suggests forgiveness. She says forgiveness is about:
"...letting go. It is about choosing positive emotions over negative ones; it is a decision that results in an entirely different emotional experience."