“When they were fighting over ownership of something I would say ‘Jacob, say… ‘Excuse me Sarah, when you’re finished may I have a turn please?’’ and then wait for him to repeat my words. And then I would turn to Sarah and say ‘Sarah, say… ‘Sure, Jacob.’ I did this many, many, many times and then one day to my delight I was cooking dinner and overheard them use these exact words unprompted to resolve an issue… It was a proud moment : )” – Deanne
How do children learn social and emotional intelligence skills? Practice, practice, practice. Parents have to explain, model, and repeat themselves, over and over. It can seem endless. But there are ways to help children learn faster, by taking advantage of the problems that come up in every family on a daily basis. Next time there’s a problem, think of it as a teachable moment.
1. Talk about feelings. Research shows that when parents reflect with their children about what everyone in the family feels and needs, children become more sensitive and emotionally generous to others, as well as more likely to understand another’s point of view. This is true even when children are very young; when mothers talk to their toddlers about what the baby might be feeling, the toddler develops more empathy for the baby and is less jealous. Questions work better than lectures: “I wonder why she’s crying? What do you think she needs?”
2. Ask questions about feelings, needs, wants, and choices. Any time your child makes a poor choice, you can ask questions to help him learn from his experience. Be sure to keep the exchange low-key; no one can learn when they feel on the defensive. These kinds of questions are useful from toddlerhood (when your child grabs a toy from a friend) right through the teen years (when your kid gets drunk with his buddies). You don’t have to use all these questions. You’re just helping your child reflect on what drove him to make his choice, and how that choice worked out for him.
- “How did you feel?”
- “What did you want?”
- “What did you do?”
- “How did that work out?”
- “Did you get what you wanted?”
- “Did the other person get what he wanted?”