As babies, they can’t verbally express themselves. Their only form of communication is crying. As they grow older into toddlers and kids, they can better say what is bothering them. However, that does not mean they are emotionally aware. They can say what is bothering them, but they can’t quite yet identify the emotion that goes with it. I plan to raise my son to know the emotions he’s feeling, how to deal with them, and how to express himself in a verbal manner that does not involve screaming, crying, and throwing tantrums.
When a child is upset, in the black community it is common practice to tell the child to “fix your face” or “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Neither of these responses are suitable for a child. In essence, you are stifling their emotions and telling them that they are not allowed to have feelings. You are also teaching them to be submissive and obey what anyone says without giving any input or feedback about how that makes them feel, giving the power to other people to berate them. That is most certainly not okay and even more so, that is emotional abuse.
What many people fail to realize is that this little humans grow up to be adults and can suffer from this kind of abuse in a variety of ways. They can have relationship issues, become emotionally abusive, be withdrawn, let things build up, and in severe cases, commit suicide because they feel no one cares about how they feel.
Being able to verbally express their emotions as children, will give them the power to express them as adults and better able to effectively communicate with other people. I don’t believe that physical discipline is always necessary. I received whoopings as a child, and I did not find them effective because I would do the same thing over. I felt I wasn’t heard and often times thought about committing suicide because I felt my mom didn’t care. I became selfish and only thinking of myself, which is another side effect of suppressing a child’s emotions.
With Malakhai, I am already teaching him that it is not okay to throw a tantrum anytime I take something that is not safe for him to play with. Of course his attention span is short so I can easily give him something else and he’ll stop whining. As he grows, I will teach him to verbalize his frustrations and that mommy will not respond to nor tolerate tantrums.
I often wish I had received this kind of parenting as a child because I know how I handle things would be different. But through therapy, self help books, and surrounding myself with like minded people, I have been able to become emotionally aware and say how I feel without yelling or flying off the handle. I want that for Malakhai, but starting from a young age. The more your child feels comfortable to share their feelings, frustrations, and worries, the more comfortable they will feel to share everything else.
Some ways to open this line of emotional communication:
- Relate to them by sharing something that happened to you that made you feel the same way they are feeling.
- Put down your phone and/or stop what you are doing any time your child wants to talk to you. Give them your full, undivided attention.
- Have dinner together and share about your day so they can feel comfortable to do the same.
- When your child is acting out, don’t be so quick to yell or reprimand them. Listen to them and see what it is. There could be a deeper, underlying issue that you weren’t aware of.
- If all else fails, seek a family therapist and go to family counseling. It is always healthy and helpful to have a third, unbiased party.
What are some ways you plan to or already are raising your child to be emotionally aware? How were you raised emotionally?