Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught From Parents Who Lack It Themselves?
Posted Jan 31 2011 1:46pm
How can I get my son to grow up faster? I don't mean grow as in physical growth (he needs that too). I mean maturity.....
I looked at a couple of books about "emotional intelligence" and I have to say that I lost interest so quickly. It was overwhelming and I still have such little patience for reading, even at this age (perhaps it is just plain worse at this age). And with all that goes on in this house, I barely have time to read any parenting books or even peek at the parenting magazines for which I have paid subscriptions. The magazines are still sitting in the plastic wrappings they came in through the mail.
I really do not know how to teach emotional intelligence. It is a new term for me and all I know how to do is talk so that is what I've been doing - just talking to my son. I have noticed that he seems interested in the stories of my youth which is something my mom did not do much of when I was little. But these stories of what I did and how I overcame or didn't overcome things seem to interest Logan very much.
As I get to know Logan more, I see myself in him quite often. I recognize his irrational fears even before he says anything about them. I recognize his difficulty with reading comprehension even though he can read (decode) words quite well. I recognize his low self-esteem and his preoccupation with what people are thinking about him. I actually still feel like this today. Sometimes when I am talking to someone, I don't hear them because I am wondering what they are thinking about me. It really is ridiculous but it is what I do and I am imagining that Logan does the same. Thus, I am just teaching him about emotional intelligence through examples of my own life. This is my shoddy plan because I can not get through a book that tells me how to teach it to my kid.
Logan and I really do have so much in common. For example, I used to complain about how Logan is so young and yet has managed to get stitches and break his arm before the age of six. Thinking about this now, I don't know why I complained. I broke my leg on two occasions before the age of six and I would have also had stitches but I fought off the doctors so hard at the hospital that they finally gave up on me, my mother told me. (This was in Korea when I was about 3 or 4 years old.)
On one occasion when I broke my leg at the age of 4. It was because I could not voice my concern over a broken slide but felt like I needed to go down it and so I did. I broke my leg but hid my pain for the longest time. I was taking piano lessons at the time and was visiting family that day. My parents asked me to play piano for everyone and put a portable keyboard on top of my broken leg. After playing a few notes, I broke down crying because of the pain. My parents took me to the hospital and there they were told that their daughter's leg was broken. I have a vague memory of my exasperated father telling me that next time, I should tell him what is going on. Ohmigosh, I say the same things to Logan so often now!
So as I recognize myself in him more and more, I am trying to open his horizons about fears, living life, and possibly even spirituality.
I haven't come out and said, you have this disorder and that disability. He already knows that he has some issues but I don't know how he sees himself in the context of the world. All I am doing right now is just telling him about him and myself without the labels. I feel like I can really start talking about the world outside his window. I am telling him that the school across the street has a 1st grade class of 24 kids and one teacher. (He gasped when I told him that.) I am telling him that I went to such a class.
This is such a great time to talk to him about my own life because he is now in 1st grade and 1st grade was so memorable (traumatic) for me. That year was not only my first school experience but it was also my first year in the United States. In Korea, kids start school 6 months after American children do. So basically my parents didn't bother to put me in kindergarten. I learned everything from my big brother anyway who taught me how to read and do math.
But starting life as a student without being able to speak English, having no parents at home until 7 PM, and not having much money was tough on me, to say the least.
When I say no to Logan about buying something and he whines, I remind him about how my mother didn't have enough money to buy me a sufficient supply of socks and so if the laundry wasn't done, I would go to school without socks. I tell him how the other kids made fun of me (true story).
I know that eventually he may tune me out like the When-I-was-little-I-walked-five-miles-to-school-story but for now, the look on his face tells me that he believes me and is imagining what that must have been like. Thankfully, Logan is one of those kids that can walk out of a toy store empty-handed. He may ask and he may even whine but tantrums are rare.
I also let him know that I consider it a gift for him to have me at home. I kind of see it this way because my mother had absolutely no choice but to work. That first year in the United States was probably horrendous for her. She literally worked all day in a garment factory and then brought work home so she could be paid piecemeal.
Last year, I actually cried when I went to Logan's Thanksgiving Lunch Event at his school. It was only when I walked into his classroom that day did a flood of emotions come over me because at that moment it occurred to me that my mother was never able to do this. Logan gets so anxious about me coming to school. Perhaps if he understood how it is not a choice for some kids and how he is fortunate that his own mom could attend an event.... maybe he can open his mind a little more and not be so stuck on what should be and what shouldn't be.
I know that he is immature and yet his intelligence and ability to grasp large ideas seems to allow him to understand some of these things. I suppose you can call it something akin to building upon his strengths. I sometimes wonder what the real meaning of strengths-based programming is. I have to be careful to make sure it is not lip-service and that institutions really walk the walk when they say that.
Back to emotional intelligence: My friend once told me that when she talks to Logan, she feels like she is talking to a grown-up. This struck a chord with me because now I know why Logan is always making me laugh. The things he says is funny because it usually does not come from a child's mouth.
When Logan was four, I told him that Daddy will stay home for a week because he is taking off work and then Logan asked how we will have money to live. I think I laughed for about 15 minutes straight that day.
When Logan was six, he told me that he would buy me a car and I asked when and he said.... "After I go to college and get a job." I didn't realize that he thought of such things so far ahead. I think the future worries him a bit even though he's only 7 years old. But the cute part of that story is that when I joked to Logan saying that I don't want to share a car with his father and that I would want my own car, he said, "Okay, but then Spencer is going to have to help me."
Is that weird? When he says things like this. I never think, "He's so smart." Rather, I think, "do you seriously think like that?" It is hysterical. I wish I had more examples to share but I have a really bad memory now. So bad that I am now starting to do more brain exercises like Scrabble Flash or puzzles. And now, as I write this, I am thinking that I should write his funny-sayings all down and make a book out of it and call it, "Sh*t Logan Says." Really, he makes me laugh like this almost everyday now and strangely he is not telling me a joke to make me laugh.
But I think he is really starting to like the feeling of making people laugh. (ohmigosh, another Jim Carrey?) I think he has been attempting to do this for a long time now but he had been failing miserably. I finally taught him how to tell a joke and he felt really empowered. I also told him how to do a Ha-Fooled-Ya-type joke but it is backfiring a bit. He is starting to make up stories for fun and then admit later that it was a joke but these jokes are not funny. I think in his mind, he is doing some sort of what-would-happen-if-I-said-this-test not really to make someone upset but rather he is experimenting people's reactions.
He is so inquisitive and it is so hard to explain to a kid who sees the world a little differently, "Uh, Logan, people are not toys. Get that through your head buddy." I think he is starting to get the picture but his impulsivity is strong and when he gets an idea to do something...... ugh... trouble..
The bottom line is that I remind myself that this child of mine who can infuriate me in 60 seconds is the same child who when given a choice, will always pick the less expensive toy to lessen his parent's financial hardship and will always share his chocolate and candies with his little brother without being told. It really just dawned on me these days, why he doesn't ask for more Wii games. I thought he was oblivious but I think he doesn't want to burden me.
Photo: Probably even just a year ago, I would have never thought this picture was possible. But now I have a boy who likes books such as the Berenstain Bears and Olivia. He wanted to buy that book that he's holding here in this picture and of course, I said "Seventeen dollars! No way!" We found a great book on sale though. He clutched it with anxious hands until we took it to the register. I was so happy that finally we could both be at Barnes and Nobles in peace and he was no longer that toddler taking all the books out of the shelves.