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Personality Plus - I

When it comes to dealing with the up-and-down world of emotions, your children take their cues from you. How does your personality affect them?

Do you bottle up your anger, or do you hit out at the first available target? Do you frown upon frowning or do you treat upsets as a time to draw closer to people?

More importantly, how does what you do affect how your children deal with the variety of emotions that confront them daily?

What will you do when….

Your older child comes bawling to you because Baby has just upset the puzzle that took so long to fix. Would you

  • pretend it isn't happening and wait for things to calm down?

  • encourage your child to get over it-it's just not that big a deal-you can fix the puzzle again

  • agree that your child is right to feel angry but punching Baby is not a solution

  • teach your child that anger is inappropriate

Which kind of parent are you?

The dismissing parent: "just get over it"

If we attend to our own emotions, we are more likely to notice the emotions of others. If we fear or neglect our own emotions, we are more likely to fear or neglect the emotions of others.

Children's emotions oscillate so much, and are so difficult to predict and control, that sometimes we might feel like avoiding it altogether. Habitually dismissing or ignoring emotions could lead to difficulties in making friends, lower achievement and more overall health problems.

When a child experiences a negative emotion, the solution for an emotion-dismissing parent seems simple: the child should simply decide to have a more positive emotion. They will do anything to move the child out of the negative emotional state, including distraction, tickling, eating, and so on.

Such parents are not insensitive to their children's emotions. They see them happening and want to be helpful and protective, but they are not sure what to do. For them, dismissing the emotion, minimizing it by saying "it's not that bad" or distracting the child with something new, may seem like the best option. In trying to help the child, in dismissing the child's emotional experiences, these efforts may also dismiss or diminish the child.

Lost opportunities to grow closer to the child

Tantrums, anger, frustration, anxiety, whining are all healthy and natural, not problems to be fixed or avoided. More importantly, they are opportunities to build trust and share experiences with children.

Sharing the experience is not mere empathy. It helps the child to label the feeling, it helps solve the problem that is creating the feeling. With mom or dad valuing, sharing and treating the anxiety as important, the child learns to deal with it and set limits.

The disapproving parent: "you shouldn't feel that way"

Consider this: your child is upset and you don't know why. You hope it will pass by the time you finish putting away the groceries/finish the article/complete the call you are making. "Stop being a brat!" you say, and she starts to whine. "You cry, you are in trouble!" you say, and she starts bawling immediately after. Now, not only is your child upset about something, she is going to be punished for it.

For disapproving parents, crying, whining, sulking, throwing tantrums are unacceptable. The parent feels children use negative emotions to manipulate their parents. Instead of trying to understand their children's emotions, they discipline or punish them.

Lost opportunities to grow closer to the child

Emotions help us react to situations, they help shape our choices. Emotions can't be just turned off. In fact, trying to turn them off, or trying to make children turn them off, can have harmful consequences. One big consequence is that children will learn not to come to you when they are feeling negative emotions. Instead, children will have these feelings alone, and feel wrong or unacceptable for feeling the way they do.

Personality Plus - II

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