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Mom with low emotional intelligence

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi Mamas,

 

I am not too ashamed to come out and admit that I have low emotional intelligence.  That's because I believe that coming out and saying so will help me to educate myself more; and one reason I like this community in particular.  I see a lot of very tender, sensitive women. I am extremely loving and protective, but I do it with more force than finesse sometimes.

 

Basically, what is obvious and intuitive for most women is sometimes just a DUH for me.  I am extremely intelligent at some things, like problem solving, but when it comes to reading my son's expressions and figuring out what he really needs most, I am really mediocre at best.  I think as a result it affects our bond and I would really like to know specific ways I can learn to be more mindful of interpreting his needs.

 

Any tips for getting better at understanding baby expressions and being attuned to emotional needs?

post #2 of 20

You have a little toddler, right? You're past the stage where the angry face crying means he's hungry, and most of his facial expressions are like an older child's or an adult's. He smiles and laughs when he's happy and cries when he's sad or angry. 

 

A lot of little kids his age get frustrated and have meltdowns or tantrums. They are very hard to manage. It is not a sign of your limitations if you have trouble with them. I'm not doubting your assessment of your own emotional intelligence! You know yourself. I'm saying rather that this phase might be hard for you even if you were awesomely intuitive.

 

A toddler has a lot of feelings and not a lot of words. Like a younger baby, he might cry when he's tired or hungry. Actually, adults get like that too!  

 

In some ways, it can help if you can calmly ask him how he's feeling. It's a great time to still be nursing, but if you aren't, you can still offer hugs and cuddling and reading a story. You're probably what he wants, most of the time. 

post #3 of 20

Hi demeter888! 

 

My husband is a person with very low emotional intelligence.  He's "interesting", socially.  He's very, very likable, but there is just so much that he doesn't "get".  I notice him with our daughter, and I see that he had no idea what she's thinking or feeling, although I can see it plain as day.  He struggles with her, although she adores him, because he cannot and therefore doesn't anticipate her needs or reactions in any way. 

 

I realized that part of our job as her parents is to teach her to deal with and interact with all kinds of people.  She and I are more similar, she and he are very different.  I don't intervene very much because she needs to learn how to deal with him.  She needs to understand that not everyone will intuit her needs, not everyone will understand her subtleties, not everyone will be able to interpret her facial expressions.  She needs to learn to communicate with him.  It's hard to watch, but I keep my interventions small and geared towards her, as he is who he is, and he is unlikely to change much, despite all his hard work. 

 

For example, he was really struggling with getting her to do anything, even things she liked, because he wasn't transitioning her at all, nevermind well.  So bathtime would roll around, and she loves her bath, and he'd just pick her up like a sack of potatoes and haul her off and sure enough, she's screaming and flailing and now he's confused and flustered.  So I stepped in and said, in a "toddler voice":  "Papa, I was busy.  I was playing.  How would you like it if you were hauled off from what you were doing?", which was my model for her behavior, and then later when he and I were alone I explained transitioning to him.  He got it, and he does it now, and things are much smoother for him. 

 

I see myself as a translator, a facilitator maybe.  But there is nothing to "fix" in either of them, they just don't speak each other's language.

 

Are you partnered?  Can you ask your partner to act in this role?  If you're not partnered or your partner is also coming from the same emotional ability you are, do you have a family member or trusted friend you can ask?

 

Don't forget, your toddler is verbal.  I'd describe myself as highly social and emotionally intelligent, and I still ask her to simply explain herself to me.  When she's flipping out, I just make my voice calm, and tell her that when she's calm, she can communicate, verbally, her need, and I will meet it.  If there is not other way, maybe you can get your sweetness to simply explain his feelings to you very frequently.  Then he'll be verbalizing, which is great, and you'll know, also great!

 

smile.gif
 

post #4 of 20

Hi,

 

My name is Chuck Wolfe and I host a weekly radio show called The Emotion Roadmap: Take the Wheel and Control How You Feel. The show is all about helping people to deal with emotional challenges. It is on 3 times a month on Wednesdays, the first 2 and the 4th Wednesday of the month. It is on 12-1 PM on 89.5 FM Bridgeport, CT and streaming www.wpkn.org. I would love to have Mothers call in and talk about raising children.

 

To answer the question raised in this forum I suggest that there are a number of ways to identify how a toddler is feeling. The first is the most obvious: What do you see and what are you hearing? Is the child's face contorted in a way that looks like anger, sadness, fear, surprise, joy and so forth? Is the tone of the child's speech similar to what you see in his or her face and body language?

The second way to determine what your child is feeling is to try to close your eyes and simply focus on your child and try to sense how your child is feeling, to feel what he or she is feeling yourself. The third way is to think about what is taking place at that moment. Has the child's routine been changed? Has something happened that may have caused the child to be upset. For example if a child sees a suitcase put in the hallway he or she might recognize that means Dad or Mom is about to leave to go on a business trip and the child is upset. Or perhaps you introduced a new food to the child that day at breakfast and it is not sitting well in his or her stomach.

 

While there is no perfect solution to understanding another person's feelings there are these three ways that I have shared. The first is to identify through sight and sound. The second is to try and feel what your child is feeling. And the third is to try to understand what might be causing the current feelings.

 

I hope you find this helpful and if you do and you have more questions please call in to my show. The number is 203-336-9756.

 

Warm regards,

Chuck Wolfe

post #5 of 20

I just wanted to say that I applaud you for recognizing where you need to grow, and reaching out. It's such a huge step, and if that willingness comes through in your interactions with your son, that alone says so much about your receptivity and love. 

post #6 of 20

Another thing to keep in mind is that we all do well with some ages and stages and struggle with other things. I believe all of us are like this. I LOVE babies and feel like I can almost always find a way to get to know them and communicate but I'm pretty bad with the 3-5 set and don't consider myself all that great with the 10-12 age group. So, while I commend you in your efforts to improve, there is also something to be said for recognizing your strengths as a mom, which may still be coming for a different age/stage. 

post #7 of 20
I think just asking or doing the guess a million different things and seeing if you are right is a way that will help. And if you have a partner or close family/friend that could help facilitate as MrsGregory suggested, that would also help too. I sometimes act as a facilitator for my DH with DD too when he's not getting that she's gone from having fun being tickled to its too much stop for real now. For us, she's just very similar to me in a lot of ways that I really get so I'm very sensitive to it when DH isn't getting it as my parents didn't get me a lot either and it made it hard. I do the same as MrsGregory where I will teach DD how to use her words to explain to DH what she wants/needs and I'll talk to DH later about what I am seeing/hearing/etc. that he might not be noticing.

And yes, 3 is a hard age for everyone I think (DD is 3 so yeah smile.gif ), the child often doesn't seem to know what they want either, let alone be able to articulate it. At dinner last night, she didn't want to eat anymore of her chicken, so DH grabbed her plate and asked her a couple times if it was ok if he finished it (don't want to waste food and he was still hungry) and she said yes and already had her chosen alternate food. As soon as he took a bit, she started crying and wailing like he just destroyed her lovey. Then we offered her a different piece of the chicken, but she got across that she wanted the one that DH had already eaten. Then other times she makes really cool intuitive leaps that stun me, so I think a lot of it is their brains are just doing so much that it is just hard for anyone to know what is going on, including and especially they themselves!
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsGregory View Post

Hi demeter888! 

 

My husband is a person with very low emotional intelligence.  He's "interesting", socially.  He's very, very likable, but there is just so much that he doesn't "get".  I notice him with our daughter, and I see that he had no idea what she's thinking or feeling, although I can see it plain as day.  He struggles with her, although she adores him, because he cannot and therefore doesn't anticipate her needs or reactions in any way. 

 

 

Hi MrsG,

 

My husband is equally bad at all those things in the same way LOL. I am the one to try to get him to slow down and consider how his son would feel.  He doesn't have the patience to do little things like read a story to him.  He will sit my son down with him and watch a gory zombie flick.  But they are best buddies and until recently he was a daddy's boy.

 

There are different types of emotional IQ, and it sounds like mine is quite different from your husband's.  I DO stop and consider others, perhaps not as much as other moms.  I think that is just a learned trait that some get better at with time.  Interpeting facial expressions is the particular thing I tend to not be very good at/aware of no matter how hard I try.  

 

Thanks for the suggestions.

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

hi capt, I appreciate your ideas very much.  He is not quite ready to talk about feelings but it's something I will work on with him.  

post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama View Post

Another thing to keep in mind is that we all do well with some ages and stages and struggle with other things. I believe all of us are like this. I LOVE babies and feel like I can almost always find a way to get to know them and communicate but I'm pretty bad with the 3-5 set and don't consider myself all that great with the 10-12 age group. So, while I commend you in your efforts to improve, there is also something to be said for recognizing your strengths as a mom, which may still be coming for a different age/stage. 

 

I was really good with my son when he was under 1. It was pure instinct for me. The longest he had ever cried up until recently was about 2 minutes.  I was so lucky to have an easy baby, this has helped build me up a lot and be less afraid of admitting what I don't know.  Now he is in a fighty/independent stage, and I try to empathize with him and show him when I do or don't understand him.  He has made me such a better person.  Also, he is going to kick my butt royally, I have no doubt. LOL.

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

Quinalla,

 

My emotionally dense hubster is really my only support in this venture.He is the only person I trust at all to let into the relationship with me and our son.  I think the main thing he does for me is just allow me to laugh when our son does incredibly silly stuff.  Your story about your daughter with the chicken just made me smile; I hope we will continue to laugh at these things (albeit behind our son's back whenever possible).

post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by demeter888 View Post

...Interpeting facial expressions is the particular thing I tend to not be very good at/aware of no matter how hard I try...

My twin sons are on the Autism spectrum.  Specifically, they have NVLD (non-verbal learning disabilities).  They also have poor vision, which certainly doesn't help in interpreting facial expressions or body language.  Unlike some Autistic kids, they have always been pretty sociable and eager to interact with and please people; the problem being their sometimes-skewed assessments of what interaction others want and/or the appropriate response.  

 

Their verbal skills are strong, so my instinct has always been to over-verbalize with them, translating common meanings behind the way people move their mouths, eyes, hands, shoulders; that people who yawn when they shouldn't be tired or who maintain a lot of eye contact at first, then start to look away a lot are probably bored and ready to move on to a new topic (no matter how endlessly fascinating it may seem to my son); how to tell if a person genuinely enjoys playful teasing, or whether it hurts their feelings; clues that someone is laughing at them (so they should stop giving a mean person fodder to make fun of them), vs. laughing with them (so continuing the behavior continues the fun), etc.  It takes repetition, but they have made progress.

 

If you find yourself able to reason through others' emotional needs, based on circumstantial or other clues (ex., deducing that a toddler who screams about being put in the bath may be upset about the abrupt termination of her play), then I'd expect you're also capable of learning many nuances of facial expression, if you approach it like a study and don't get hung up on the idea that others learn it more instinctively.  You mention "trying hard", but if you expect to self-teach something you know is a deficit for you, then you've set a harsh and unfair goal for yourself.  I am deeply disappointed that I can't play the piano by ear, like some of my friends; but, with work, I can learn to play songs from sheet music.  I can't will myself to play by ear, no matter how hard I try.  That's just not how my brain was wired.

 

When I (and probably you) were kids, no one was identified with things like "trouble interpreting facial expressions", or "low emotional intelligence" - much less were there any early interventions.      Those were just personality quirks and you lived with them.  But in the last couple decades, there's been an explosion of research, theories and therapies for a whole spectrum of special needs, including Asperger's, NVLD and other Autism-related disorders that can affect emotional intelligence and/or interpretation of non-verbal cues.  I'm not diagnosing you with Autism; but people who work with the Autistic should be able to help you find a therapist or even a computer/online program for facial expression coaching.  I'd be absolutely amazed if such a thing does not exist.  

 

In my experience, it can be difficult to figure out where to seek help for such things.  For example, where I live the biggest provider of "First Steps" services for special-needs preschoolers is a "Rehabilitation Center" that also provides a wide range of adult developmental services.  But if I were an adult looking for facial expression coaching, I'd never think to call a "Rehab Center" because it makes me think of recovery from addictions, strokes or car accidents.  The psychology, special education or even neurology dept at the nearest university - or even the special ed dept at your local public school - may be a good place to start.  They will know which local organizations likely offer therapy related to non-verbal cues and facial expressions; and will likely know which of those organizations serve adults (not just children) and which are more pricey or more affordable.  A university may also have a faculty member or grad student whose research includes interpreting non-verbal cues.  Possibly, you could get free help/coaching from someone well-versed in the latest research and theories.  When they were younger, my sons had quite a bit of treatment through our local university that would have cost thousands from a private provider.  Instead, they were actually paid a small fee for participating.

 

It is wise and clearly intelligent of you, to be exploring this while your child is still small.  As previous posters have said, his/her needs now are relatively simple and the frustrations of raising a toddler are fairly universal, regardless of a parent's emotional intelligence.  You'll want to be prepared for the teen years!  Despite being pretty emotionally intelligent, I often find raising my neurotypical step-son (who is 13 and has recently begun puberty) bewildering.  He often does not say what he's thinking/feeling; one must deduce it from seemingly random and inconsistent behavioral cues.  Or he may say he has thoughts or feelings that it later turns out he really doesn't have.  He may have thought he should think/feel as he claimed; or he may have been testing my husband's and my reaction; or trying to push our buttons.  Between watching him and trying to remember my own early teens, I've concluded puberty is like a much more complicated toddlerhood.  The kid has sometimes-intense feelings; doesn't always know, himself, what's behind them; and also struggles with questioning the validity of his own feelings/instincts, as he compares them to what he believes his friends think and feel.


Edited by VocalMinority - 2/2/13 at 4:36am
post #13 of 20

It's probably not time yet, but you should also probably consider preschool when they're a bit older. My mother.... well my armchair diagnosis is Asperger's and my brother and I were not well served by only learning social skills from her.

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by demeter888 View Post

 

I was really good with my son when he was under 1. It was pure instinct for me. The longest he had ever cried up until recently was about 2 minutes.  I was so lucky to have an easy baby, this has helped build me up a lot and be less afraid of admitting what I don't know.  Now he is in a fighty/independent stage, and I try to empathize with him and show him when I do or don't understand him.  He has made me such a better person.  Also, he is going to kick my butt royally, I have no doubt. LOL.

Yes! I'm similar - a near perfect mother of an infant, no too shabby for a toddler and then I tread water from three-about 5. BTW, another member said that 3 is just hard and that's totally true, IMO. Check the Gentle Discipline boards on any day for the last 10 years and you will see posts from exasperated, lost parents of 3 year olds. ROTFLMAO.gif

post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by somelady View Post

It's probably not time yet, but you should also probably consider preschool when they're a bit older. My mother.... well my armchair diagnosis is Asperger's and my brother and I were not well served by only learning social skills from her.

 

Yeah that.  I'm introverted/ probably Asperger's, and I specifically chose a babysitter for my littles who was extroverted/ cheerleader type.  She was a good influence on their communication skills.  I know I have limitations as a parent, but I can choose other people to be in my kid's lives to fill in where I struggle. 

post #16 of 20

Hi, I posted a couple of days ago as a new member and have not seen my post go up. I hate to take the time to post and not know what happens to it and why. Is there anyone to check with. I am an expert in the field of emotional intelligence and offered what I thought were helpful suggestions. I also have a radio talk show called The Emotion Roadmap: Take the Wheel and Control How You Feel and I would like to have people call in about this topic and share ideas. What do you all think?

 

Warm regards,

Chuck Wolfe

post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 

Vocalminority:

Quote:
Originally Posted by VocalMinority View Post

My twin sons are on the Autism spectrum.  Specifically, they have NVLD (non-verbal learning disabilities).  They also have poor vision, which certainly doesn't help in interpreting facial expressions or body language.  Unlike some Autistic kids, they have always been pretty sociable and eager to interact with and please people; the problem being their sometimes-skewed assessments of what interaction others want and/or the appropriate response.  

 

Their verbal skills are strong, so my instinct has always been to over-verbalize with them, translating common meanings behind the way people move their mouths, eyes, hands, shoulders; that people who yawn when they shouldn't be tired or who maintain a lot of eye contact at first, then start to look away a lot are probably bored and ready to move on to a new topic (no matter how endlessly fascinating it may seem to my son); how to tell if a person genuinely enjoys playful teasing, or whether it hurts their feelings; clues that someone is laughing at them (so they should stop giving a mean person fodder to make fun of them), vs. laughing with them (so continuing the behavior continues the fun), etc.  It takes repetition, but they have made progress.

 

If you find yourself able to reason through others' emotional needs, based on circumstantial or other clues (ex., deducing that a toddler who screams about being put in the bath may be upset about the abrupt termination of her play), then I'd expect you're also capable of learning many nuances of facial expression, if you approach it like a study and don't get hung up on the idea that others learn it more instinctively.  You mention "trying hard", but if you expect to self-teach something you know is a deficit for you, then you've set a harsh and unfair goal for yourself.  I am deeply disappointed that I can't play the piano by ear, like some of my friends; but, with work, I can learn to play songs from sheet music.  I can't will myself to play by ear, no matter how hard I try.  That's just not how my brain was wired.

 

When I (and probably you) were kids, no one was identified with things like "trouble interpreting facial expressions", or "low emotional intelligence" - much less were there any early interventions.      Those were just personality quirks and you lived with them.  But in the last couple decades, there's been an explosion of research, theories and therapies for a whole spectrum of special needs, including Asperger's, NVLD and other Autism-related disorders that can affect emotional intelligence and/or interpretation of non-verbal cues.  I'm not diagnosing you with Autism; but people who work with the Autistic should be able to help you find a therapist or even a computer/online program for facial expression coaching.  I'd be absolutely amazed if such a thing does not exist.  

 

In my experience, it can be difficult to figure out where to seek help for such things.  For example, where I live the biggest provider of "First Steps" services for special-needs preschoolers is a "Rehabilitation Center" that also provides a wide range of adult developmental services.  But if I were an adult looking for facial expression coaching, I'd never think to call a "Rehab Center" because it makes me think of recovery from addictions, strokes or car accidents.  The psychology, special education or even neurology dept at the nearest university - or even the special ed dept at your local public school - may be a good place to start.  They will know which local organizations likely offer therapy related to non-verbal cues and facial expressions; and will likely know which of those organizations serve adults (not just children) and which are more pricey or more affordable.  A university may also have a faculty member or grad student whose research includes interpreting non-verbal cues.  Possibly, you could get free help/coaching from someone well-versed in the latest research and theories.  When they were younger, my sons had quite a bit of treatment through our local university that would have cost thousands from a private provider.  Instead, they were actually paid a small fee for participating.

 

It is wise and clearly intelligent of you, to be exploring this while your child is still small.  As previous posters have said, his/her needs now are relatively simple and the frustrations of raising a toddler are fairly universal, regardless of a parent's emotional intelligence.  You'll want to be prepared for the teen years!  Despite being pretty emotionally intelligent, I often find raising my neurotypical step-son (who is 13 and has recently begun puberty) bewildering.  He often does not say what he's thinking/feeling; one must deduce it from seemingly random and inconsistent behavioral cues.  Or he may say he has thoughts or feelings that it later turns out he really doesn't have.  He may have thought he should think/feel as he claimed; or he may have been testing my husband's and my reaction; or trying to push our buttons.  Between watching him and trying to remember my own early teens, I've concluded puberty is like a much more complicated toddlerhood.  The kid has sometimes-intense feelings; doesn't always know, himself, what's behind them; and also struggles with questioning the validity of his own feelings/instincts, as he compares them to what he believes his friends think and feel.

 

 

Hi, I am not getting notifications suddenly of thread replies so I came back here to find all the replies.  Your reply is so chalk full of good ideas and suggestions that I am actually starting to wonder whether I just came here to LOOK like I want to get help, or whether I am serious.  I think you made an excellent point that I do not want to wait until my kiddo is in puberty to make that decision.  This is on my to do list.

 

As for your stepson: I had very similar behavior at the same age as what you describe in him.  Erratic outbursts.  Looking back now I can tell you it was emotional immaturity in not understanding my own pain and anger about my mother's divorce from my father and her decision to start another relationship after my trust with her had been damaged (she deprioritized me, I felt).  I felt so betrayed and angry but did not understand it, nor why, until I was older.  Therapy in which you speak about feelings has helped me develop a LOT, but one must also take care to avoid a feeling of entitlement to confront emotions too, as avoidance of feelings is also a very undervalued and critical coping mechanism when a teen does have very strong feelings, but first they must recognize their emotions then later how to handle them.  I might have been a more severe case than your stepson but hope I can repay with some of my own insight :-)

post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck Wolfe View Post

Hi, I posted a couple of days ago as a new member and have not seen my post go up. I hate to take the time to post and not know what happens to it and why. Is there anyone to check with. I am an expert in the field of emotional intelligence and offered what I thought were helpful suggestions. I also have a radio talk show called The Emotion Roadmap: Take the Wheel and Control How You Feel and I would like to have people call in about this topic and share ideas. What do you all think?

 

Warm regards,

Chuck Wolfe

 

Hi Chuck,  This forum sometimes holds back messages from being posted.  I would suggest contacting the admin?  I would be interested in your show.

 

Thanks.

post #19 of 20
There's a great book called The Emotional Life Of Toddlers that helped me understand a little bit of the bigger issues my kiddo is/will be struggling with. I'd recommend it highly. I certainly had no idea what kinds of things my little bub was processing, or how she could go from laughing to crying in a split second... and she doesn't always know either (at least not in a way that can be verbalized for an adult). the book put some of her "irrational" toddler ups and downs into a perspective I could understand so that I could practice empathy and start anticipating/responding to her emotional needs more effectively. HTH
post #20 of 20

Hi,

 

Per the request my show is on www.wpkn.org or 89.5 FM in Bridgeport, CT. The show is called "The Emotion Roadmap: Take the Wheel and Control How You Feel. This Wednesday, tomorrow at 12 noon to 1 PM my show will feature a pioneer in the field of social and emotional learning and one of his colleagues. He is Josh Freedman and if you google 6 Seconds you can learn all about his organization. We will be talking a lot social and emotional learning in schools.

 

Even if people miss this show I would welcome the opportunities for mothers of toddler to call in on other Wednesdays and share with me the kinds of information that is being posted in this forum. My program often features people who call to share emotionally challenging situations which I attempt to help them deal with by using a process I call The Emotion Roadmap. If you want to hear existing archived shows you can go to http://www.prx.org/accounts/128327-chuckwolfe/pieces.

 

I hope this gets posted today 2/12/13 so people will have the opportunity to listen tomorrow. My original post was my first one and it took a long time to actually appear. If people did not read it I will repeat it here since I think it might be helpful for the topic.

 

To answer the question raised in this forum I suggest that there are a number of ways to identify how a toddler is feeling. The first is the most obvious: What do you see and what are you hearing? Is the child's face contorted in a way that looks like anger, sadness, fear, surprise, joy and so forth? Is the tone of the child's speech similar to what you see in his or her face and body language?

The second way to determine what your child is feeling is to try to close your eyes and simply focus on your child and try to sense how your child is feeling, to feel what he or she is feeling yourself. The third way is to think about what is taking place at that moment. Has the child's routine been changed? Has something happened that may have caused the child to be upset. For example if a child sees a suitcase put in the hallway he or she might recognize that means Dad or Mom is about to leave to go on a business trip and the child is upset. Or perhaps you introduced a new food to the child that day at breakfast and it is not sitting well in his or her stomach.

 

While there is no perfect solution to understanding another person's feelings there are these three ways that I have shared. The first is to identify through sight and sound. The second is to try and feel what your child is feeling. And the third is to try to understand what might be causing the current feelings.

 

I hope you find this helpful and if you do and you have more questions please call in to my show. The number is 203-336-9756.

 

Warm regards,

Chuck Wolfe

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