August 2009 Screaming toddlers and moody teenagers have something in common — they are both emotionally charged. Louisa Wilkins speaks to the experts about how to handle your children in an emotionally intelligent way to ensure positive results.

The summer sun was beating down on the small patch of cement, heating up the already heated stand off between me and my three-year-old. She wanted to stay and play. I wanted to get in the car and go home. She looks at me defiantly as she grabs the pink, tassled handlebars of the three-wheeler trike in her nursery playground. “No,” I say reaching for the gate. “We are going home. I have to go home now because it’s nearly dinner time. Are you coming with me?” She darts to the gate, holding it closed, screaming the sky down as if I have just robbed her of her last chance to play, ever. Does she not realise its brain-boiling hot? Does she not realise it’s dinner time? Does she not realise that I just said, “No”? From experience I see the next 30 minutes mapped out in front of me — 15 minutes of torrential crying all the way home, followed by 15 minutes of red-faced, wounded sulk. Great.

This is the hard part of parenting. The bit you can’t find in any baby manual or parenting guide. The part that your parents seem to master instinctively in their role as grandparents. It’s the part you agonise over and repeatedly reflect on at the end of the day. It’s the easiest to get wrong and probably most important to get right – it’s the emotional part. Unfortunately, one of the major downsides to being an expatriate parent is that our parental role models and their trustworthy guidance are often entire continents away. Joshua Freedman is a parent, a teacher and one of the founders of Six Seconds, one of the world’s most renowned emotional intelligence organisations, which offers knowledge on how to recognise and understand emotions, and how to use them fluently. He says, “In Dubai, people are often far from their social networks who understand how difficult and absorbing it is being a parent. Away from close family and friends, parents need support and advice on how to deal with tough parenting situations,
which are usually hinged on emotions.”

Before you start fretting about your emotional incapacity as a parent, or chastising yourself for the way you dealt with the “I don’t want breakfast” drama this morning, the good news is that, according to Freedman,
emotional intelligence (EQ) is just like any other skill, in that it is learnable. “EQ can be taught,” says Freedman. “Some elements of personality are fixed, but I am 100 per cent convinced that we each have choices about how we think, feel, and act.”

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