Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buy Yourself That: Emotion Coaching Funpak!

I think my bookgroup is reading John Gottman's Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.  We haven't talked about it in weeks, but I finished it a while back and really learned a lot from it.  It's one of those parenting books that not only helps you become a better parent, but also has the potential to help make you a better person, too.  Its core message is one of helping your children identify and cope with their emotions by empathizing and strategizing with them.  The idea is simple, but it seems pretty rare in practice.  Empathy certainly isn't emphasized in schools (this book is a great read for teachers, too), and it appears to be a newer revelation in parenting given what I've seen on playgrounds, etc., where getting kids to stop feeling their feelings seems to be job one in teaching good behavior.  I highly recommend this book to teachers, parents, and caregivers.  It's a great one and sure to be useful in improving your relationships with kids and adults alike.

To go with this, I bought Todd Parr's Feelings Flash Cards for Livy to play with. 

I really like them because of the vocabulary they teach.  Rather than being limited to "happy" and "sad," the cards run the gamut of complicated and nuanced emotions in kid-friendly language (annoyed, worried, excited, and even ants-in-my-pants are represented on the cards).  She likes to flip the cards and look at the pictures, and I like that she's picking up on emotional language that we can use together in emotion coaching later on.  Plus, Todd Parr is a fantastically funny illustrator.  Shoot, he created one of my favorite children's books, Underwear Do's and Don'ts, so I'm happy to support his little empire.

If you want to start smaller with your little one, I also recommend Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces by Jane Wattenberg, a fold-out book that has all happy baby faces on one side and all sad baby faces on the opposite side.  It's a wordless book, so you can tell the story of each baby or give each emotion a name on your own, but little babies love looking at the crisp, clear photos of other babies.  Olivia has loved (and mauled) this book since I bought it when she was about 3 months old, and it's always a favorite of other kids during playdates, too.  She sometimes points to the sad babies and makes sad faces herself and smiles with the happy babies, showing that she's learning empathy or playing with expressions of her own emotions, either of which is useful in fostering emotional intelligence.

So, there you have it!  You can take the teacher out of school, but you can't take the school out of the teacher.  I didn't mean to spend this year developing curriculum, but it sneaks up on me all the time and I only realize that I've done it after it's done.  Enjoy the fruits of my obsessive labors, friends!

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