By Elyse Jacobs
Did you hear the one about the Dali Lama, Daniel Goleman and the children of Pacific Primary walking together into a chocolate milk bar?
While this sounds like the beginning of those old jokes, all three actually have something in common. Whether they are teachers or students, each one utilizes emotional intelligence to create more peace in the world.
In a blog for Huffington Post, Anna Partridge writes about the importance of and tips on how to teach EQ, emotional quotient (or emotional intelligence), to children.
KQED’s Mind/Shift has an excellent article on the benefits of and suggestions for helping preschoolers understand and discuss their emotions.
Recently, I’ve written here about fear and sadness, two of the core emotions categorized in the Atlas of Emotions commissioned by the Dali Lama and created by Paul Eckman. Anger is the third of five core emotions identified in the Atlas.
It is important to help children first identify the emotion. Ask what they are feeling. If they are not able to recognize the emotion on their own, you can help them name it by standing in front of a mirror and having them look at their face. Have them guess what they might be feeling. For some this is easy, for others naming their feelings is new. We, as teachers and parents, can do much to encourage emotional literacy.
Say something like, "I’m looking at your face and guessing that you might feel angry. Are you feeling angry?" You can crouch down to their height and repeat, "you seem angry." If they nod or connect with your words in some way, continue. "Yes, very, verrrrry angry." Your acknowledgement will not stop the tide of strong feelings but the recognition will help.
If their form of expression is inappropriate, set limits while guiding them to take more appropriate action. "We cannot hit our friends when we are angry. Instead we can…" and then offer suggestions such as stomp feet, use a power voice to say what they didn’t like, or pound a pillow. In this way, you set limits on their behavior while allowing them to recognize and find an appropriate form of expression.
Children are often initially angry or sad at being left at school, particularly if they didn’t realize the parent was leaving. The caregiver might have said goodbye when the child was engaged in playing. We can teach children appropriate ways for expressing their feelings. Having them draw how they feel or dictate a letter for their parents can be very effective.
These basic steps in naming, managing and expressing emotions appropriately are important tools of peace. Recognizing the emotions of others will come next. This is when they will be able to see some of the consequences of their actions in making new and maintaining their friendships.