When I picked up my 8 year old daughter from school today I noticed that my usually bubbly child wasn’t as chipper as she normally is. On our drive home she stated that she couldn’t find an assignment that was due the following day. She seemed highly stressed about it, which is not unusual (she is very serious about her academics), but I noted to myself that her behavior was still outside the “norm” for her. However, I figured the mood she was displaying was due to the lost assignment. Upon arriving home and searching she was able to locate the assignment but this still didn’t improve her mood. And while in a discussion with her grandmother about tonight’s homework she started getting very upset again. So I called her to me and asked her if anything happened at school today. The question at first drew a blank stare. So I asked her if something had happened with her teachers or maybe her friends or if someone, anyone, had hurt her feelings. At first she said no but then tears started to slowly well up in her eyes. After a little more prodding she stated that her friend had been mean to her today.
Over the years I have heard people talk about how parenting girls is “harder” because girls are “moody”. Since I understand that sexism requires women and girls to always be labeled, for example, “emotional,” I have never accepted that girls/women are more “moody” or “emotional” than men. And given the fact that most of the time in my experience it’s been men who have very little handle on their moods or emotions I always knew this was just a stereotype. I understand that we all experience emotions and we all handle them in different ways. I also remember being a third grader, third grade was a tough year on the friend end. No matter how you swing it, kids’ social circles are rough. While my daughter usually openly shares pretty much everything with me I know that she is growing up and well, I am her mom, I will not always be her first choice when there is a problem in her life. I also know that this means I must pay more attention to the her non verbal cues if I am going to help her make it to adulthood as a happy well rounded human being.
Emotional intelligence is described as “the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).” (Wikipedia) This skill has been recognized as one of the reasons women improve team performance in the workplace. (Women tend to have higher emotional intelligence than men.) I am here to say that emotional intelligence is also an essential skill as a parent. We as parents must be able to read “between the lines” if we are to help our children grow up.
With all that’s going on in world we parents have to be even more in tune to what’s happening with our children. And we are going to have to use more than just what our children say to us, we have to make sure we understand the emotional cues that may mean there’s something deeper happening. Just like what I experienced with my little one today.
After a few tears, a chat about friendship, some kisses, and lots of hugs my Little Flower is back to her normal happy mood. I know that this won’t be the last time we talk about friendship and it’s ups and downs but I am happy I didn’t just ignore her “mood”. Hopefully in the future she will tell me when something is bothering her but I am happy to know I have other skills to rely on just in case!