Emotionally connected When I was three years old, I was able to save my mother from suicide simply because my body was able to alert me to the suffering of my mother from the other room and led me to her. When I arrived at her bedside, I connected to her pain and felt a flood of information about her emotions run through my body and my mind. Would I have been able to intellectualize the distinctive emotions I felt? No, children are not aware that other people may not be able to feel what they are feeling. Therefore a need never occurs to articulate emotions consciously. Children are not aware that other people may not be able to feel what they are feeling. In that experience, when my mother handed me a stack of money and told me to keep it for what me and my sister might need, I intuitively knew that whatever my mother had had to do to get that money, was what was hurting her. In a defiant act of unconditional love and protection, I took the money, walked down the hall calmly and flushed it straight down the toilet. How would a three year old be so clear on what right action to take? Had anyone taught me about the complexity of emotions, the difficulty of survival, or the reality of suicide? No. As you can see, all that I need to know was already available to me. The common perception is that unless we are taught the differences between right and wrong, we will not know it. To a certain extent this is true, we need to be taught what behaviors are expected of us in societal situations. The emotional bodies of children are able to differentiate between experiences which feel good and experiences which feel bad intuitively. Where we often go wrong is when we do not allow children enough space to make mistakes and experience life freely. We control, threaten, punish, and criticize every mistake. Often times, we see parents creating reputational identities around how well the child can be controlled. This is how we teach conditional love. Children are inherently very intelligent, they learn by watching rather than only listening. The mirror neurons in our bodies help us to learn much faster through experience. Children absorb information through the physical sensory body and the energetic body. In the case of my story, we are able to see how perfectly in-tune our emotional intelligence already is and that our ability to know what feels right does not come from an intellectual place. Children need emotionally available, non-stressed, calm caregivers. Get on their level Get down on their level when talking to them, make energetic eye and body contact. Approach them as an honorable friend, after all we are only stewards of their care. Speak with soft tones, hug them, see the best in them, use loving and validating language, and allow them the freedom to make mistakes with dignity and the chance for those mistakes to go unnoticed or forgotten at times. This will develop an emotionally intelligent child who respects you and who you can respect. Children are connected to purity, therefore they know when you are sincere or not and will decide how to respond based upon their sense. If you have made mistakes or hurt their feelings in any way, show them that you love them unconditionally by apologizing in a sincere and profuse way. This will allow the child to experience something deeply pleasant, and when done consistently, will hardwire the child towards this behavior naturally. Environments of Punishment Environments of punishment and consequence can make us feel unsafe from knowing which to listen to: the intelligence of our heart or the abstract conditional rules in our environment. In order for us to become fully human, we need to know who we are on our own – without too much interference. When we are punished for everything, we become frightened to explore our emotional intelligence and thus shut off the conduit between the interconnected universal self and the mind. It is our human need and our human right to have the freedom to make mistakes and recover with dignity. After all, we learn so much more by making mistakes. When a child makes a mistake, make it a playful discovery! Allow the child to become the master of their own journey by simply being the guide. Help them explore other ways that the scenario could have played out so they will know how to engage their imagination and courage to make the choice, experience the learning and the consequences of those actions. Its more about the social and natural evolution of consequences, a bit different than thinking of disciplinary consequences. It is fundamentally important that the child feels that their mistake will not make you feel differently about them. This will help map the brain towards more positive solution finding because it is an experience of engagement and new experiences. Since human beings can not survive on their own, we are naturally hardwired to seek acceptance. Therefore, we do not need to emotionally manipulate or force a child to do things. This displays a lack of empathy and a lack of imagination. Besides, children sense when they are being manipulated at a subconscious level. In my memories as a child, I always knew when someone was manipulating me, but I went along with it gracefully. Later in life, it caused me to reassess the relationships which were manipulating me and decide to let them go; in love. Yes, every parents greatest fear can happen. But you decide every step of the way by how you treat and respect others. Rebellion is a healthy reaction to manipulation. Intelligence wants to be engaged and rebels against it’s own deception. Children will naturally add value to relationships they can trust and respect. Behavior Control How do we deal with an upset child in our culture? Behavior control and punishment. Many children are being categorized, labeled, and drugged in order to control their behaviors. Labels like ADD, ADHD, Oppositional Behavior are just ways of identifying patterns of behavior; they do not help us to understand why the behaviors exist. Research is verifying that these issues are caused by a lack of emotional availability and connection during the brain’s neural development. These issues are not passed on genetically, they are passed through lack of connection and emotional engagement. Though the drug companies wish to make a case for genetics by funding research, the evolutionary study of genes shows us it would take over one thousand years for these new traits to be reflected in our genetic pool. We can change the wiring of our bodies and brains throughout our entire life. This is called Neuroplasticity. The dysfunctional behavioral and emotional patterns surfacing in children are being caused because we have failed to see the child’s inherent emotional capability and are not creating social environments which can help them integrate the intelligence of their emotions with the intelligence of their conditioned minds. We all want an integrated, loving family. Recognizing potential To build a healthy relationship with anyone at any age, we need to seek to know them emotionally. For when we know what they care for, what they have been through, and what they struggle with – we naturally connect to our compassion for them and can assist in more loving and unconditional ways. Engaging our children about what they feel and why they feel those things will allow them to feel respected and will show them how to navigate their internal world consciously. We all deserve to know the unbounded spirit within. We all desire to be loved and accepted unconditionally. Sometimes we need healthy boundaries, this is okay. But for the most part, we need to be allowed to make mistakes, learn, and be imperfect. And when we are engaged emotionally in a calm, non-stressed, empathic way, we are able to sense our internal source of unconditional love within and can extend it out towards others. Children have as much to teach us about emotional intelligence as we have to teach them about the world we have created together. When we approach them in the heart space of equality and friendship, rather than force, threats, and punishment; we will find that children carry the potential for great and deep beauty, if only we might have the courage to see.