Travelling along I placed my feet up on the dash board (yes I was the passenger) when my 6 year old son piped up I think you should take your feet down from there Mum”. I inquired for his reasoning, thinking he would say something like it’s not safe if we crash (as it really is a dangerous thing to do), instead he simply said It’s not fair if you get to and we don’t get to put our feet on the seats in front of us”. It got me thinking, is it right to teach children about fairness when they live in a world that is not always fair? Will teaching them to be fair lead them ultimately to be confused and disappointed when they face the unfairness of our world? After all when I grew up a common mantra adults said to children was ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.
Interestingly enough one of my driving forces is to lead by example, to walk my talk, perhaps that was my reaction to what I saw as injustices growing up (another blog in the making I am sure).
Back to this blog, For me I believe that I am helping develop two boys who one day will become men with high emotional intelligence. Something I think will help them stand out from the rest, will place them in a position that will enable them to be at one with how they feel, accept other people have the right to think differently, be able to work through and understand where their reactions are coming from, and to be the best them they can ever be.
Perhaps you may think this is a great leap from teaching them about fairness, bare with me and let me connect the dots. Fairness is not simply just about whether you are being treated fairly, although it covers this to, it is more about understanding how other people are feeling and why they may react the way they do in certain circumstances. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes allows you to empathise, empathy is in my mind the greatest tribute to fairness we can extol. To empathise is not about agreeing with or even understanding, it is about being able to imagine yourself in their situation so you can relate to what the other person may be experiencing or thinking. Or at the very least be able to recognise it’s not about you, it’s about them, something is going on in their lives that is leading them to react a certain way.
This plays out with amazing results when our boys talk to me about someone being mean to them or a friend. This normally incites a discussion full of questions from me to try to better understand the environment (what was happening leading up to the event), whether the event occurs regularly and what reactions others involved had. The questions include asking our boys to think about how they think the person who talked meanly was feeling, especially powerful if something had happened to that person leading up to them being mean. Sometimes they struggle to think as that person, in these cases we ask them to think about how it would make them feel. This helps build their ability to put themselves in others situations, identify which ones make them feel good or bad, and make decisions based on that.
If you approach life understanding the impact you have on others there is a good chance you will treat people the way you want to be treated, that you will respect their decisions and find ways to work with them in order to achieve the best results. Equally you will be able to accept it if an individual can not relate to you, you will know confidently this has no bearing on you personally.
Children are miniature adults, as a result all parenting strategies, including the ones above, can be applied on adults too as they really are coaching strategies. We are not too old to learn or change our behaviours, if we choose to. We can be stubborn or not willing to change and with either of those mind sets it’s extraordinarily challenging if not impossible to change. However, if we can be open minded and come with the desire to explore change then we can all learn to develop our emotional intelligence. Why would you want to? To live a happier life, with less judgement of others, full of joy, embracing the diversity of the human race and possessing the skills to harmonise. With knowing that why wouldn’t you?