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Karen Brennan
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Working together as parents, developing emotional intelligence and reviewing the day

Monday, May 26, 2014

The last sections of “Filtering out the Adult World” are about backing off and finding balance.

Backing off—Work Together:  Kim points out that in two parent households, often if one parent is overwhelmed and over-involved, the other parent is under-involved (and calm).  Often when this happens, but certainly not always, the mother is over-involved, often with generalized concerns about her child’s emotional, intellectual and physical development.  He also writes that the “experiential scale of parenting—anxiety versus joy—is tied to the “scale of involvement” between the spouses.”  One way to bring balance is for the over-involved parent to give over certain tasks to the other parent.  Dad (or the under-involved parent) can take over a few tasks such as bedtime or bath time or getting the children ready to leave in the morning.  It’s good for the child and good for the adults.  But there is often a period of adjustment and sometimes discomfort.  Letting another person take over a task involves letting them find their way and do it their own way, and this isn’t always easy if you already have it handled.  For the person taking  over a task, there is a learning curve and sometimes a sense of inadequacy, but in the long run, making this switch will pay off in a happier, healthier family.  Kim says that having these separate domains is a good way to bring balance in parenting.

Backing Off—Less Emotional Monitoring:  “Emotional intelligence includes a self-awareness that allows one to recognize and manage one’s moods, and to motivate oneself toward a goal.  It involves feeling empathy toward others, being aware of their feelings, and being able to relate to others through interaction, conflict resolution and negotiation.”  It is something we want for ourselves and our children. But like all of our child’s development, it can’t be rushed; it develops slowly over time. Kim says that we shouldn’t talk too much to children younger than nine about their emotions.  Certainly young children have emotions, but they don’t have a complex awareness of them.  “Emotional monitoring [of children under nine or ten] has an unexpected effect.  It rushes kids along, pushing them into a premature adolescence.”  Young children learn primarily through imitation, through the way we do things rather than through what we say.  When we ask children about how they are feeling, we often impose our own emotions on our children.  But we can be available to listen to them when they want to speak.  Young children process their emotions through doing.  To put things right, they need to engage with the world—and they may need some help with this, as in Kim’s story about his daughter and her first bike ride.

Backing Off—Into Sleep: Every day our children do some amazing things.  “The heart of being a parent—the joy of it—is still unpredictable.  Absolutely remarkable and unexpected.”  We live in an era of conscious, maybe overconscious, parenting.  There is so much information available to us.  Kim suggests that some of our anxiety as parents comes from all of the graphing and comparing our children to various standards.  He describes an image of modern parenting as looking at our children through a magnifying glass.  “But the magnifying lens is not helpful; its view is too close to be pretty, or even representative of the child”  Kim suggests taking a moment before sleep, just a minute or two, to review your day and recall a few of the lovely moments that happened with your child.  This practice will help us to feel joy, appreciation and wonder as we relax into sleep.