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Teaching Kids To Control Their Emotions

Self-awareness and awareness of others
Bright kids are often a bit of a mystery to themselves. Gungho, active people don't easily take the time to reflect and consider their feelings, thoughts, or the deeper parts of their internal world.

Teaching Kids To Control Their Emotions

Parents of bright kids give them the words through which to see life. This is why the way that you speak about the world is vital to bright kids. It sounds paradoxical, doesn't it? The same kid who will fight you tooth-and-nail over bedtime or will dispute and debate some minor issue for hours also relies on your words to help her understand the world.

A father complained to me that his bright son wasn't motivated at school and seemed reluctant to try things out. I asked the father to listen to himself for a week, to listen to the way he talked about the world. When he came back, the father said he'd noticed that he would walk in the front door, complain that he'd had a dreadful day, that work was tiring, that you couldn't trust those fools, and that nobody listened to good ideas anyway, so what was the point... He chuckled with the recognition that the person who was teaching his son to be reluctant and unmotivated was himself.

The self-awareness skills 

The three major skills of self-awareness are:
  1. Recognizing and naming our feelings,
  2. Knowing what to do with feelings once you have recognized them, and
  3. Changing how we feel about things. 
Let's look at each in turn.

1. Recognizing and naming our feelings 

I was listening to a Science student talk about thermostats one day, and I thought, wouldn't it be great to have one of those for feelings? Some families place a "Feelings" sign on every family member's bedroom door, and everyone uses theirs to indicate how they are feeling - not a bad idea at all.
You can ask most kids to pause and think about their feelings for a moment, and they'll be able to say something like, "I'm feeling angry." Bright kids aren't good at this. Help them to identify their feelings by saying things like, "It looks to me like you might be worrying about something, is that right?" or "I can't tell from your face if you're feeling annoyed or sad, do you know?" 

One way of reading the emotions of your bright kid is to notice your own feelings and use these in discussions. For example, "Right now I'm feeling angry. Are you feeling that too?" The skill of recognizing your own feelings helps you decide what is and isn't important. If you don't develop this skill, you can end up reacting to everyone around you without knowing why.

Bright kids who are not tuned in to their own feelings can behave in ways that confuse them. Teach them to track backwards to work out where a particular feeling comes from. It is usually best to do this at the end of the day. For example, "This morning, when we were rushing to get to school and you got upset, what do you think caused you to be upset?" Try not to let your bright kid brush you off with a cursory "Dunno." Be like a detective: "Did you feel upset as soon as you woke up, or after breakfast? Was it when you entered the kitchen or before?" 

I know this sounds laborious, but bright kids tend to see the external world as the source of all their feelings. The long-term outcome of this is blaming everyone else every time you feel bad and never taking responsibility for changing the way you feel.

Once bright kids are reasonably able to describe their own feelings, help them to also become aware of the intensity of the feeling by rating it out of 10, where 1 equals feeling it to a small extent and 10 equals feeling it a lot. With very physical kids, like Dare Devils, it can also help to ask them where in their body they feel angry/sad/worried/annoyed. To find out more, you can check out Teaching Kids To Control Their Emotions.