My husband and I were both products of the public school system. We loved our educational upbringing and always assumed we would send our kids to public school.
Once we had kids, and the eldest was getting close to preschool age, my husband’s coworkers insisted we check out a private school close to our home. Begrudgingly we agreed to attend an open house. We walked out inspired and enamored. The number one reason? The focus at that private school was on social and emotional intelligence.
Our kids will get an excellent education anywhere we live in the Bay Area. I’m sure of that. But what I am most concerned about is raising an entitled kid with no concept of the real world, who only cares about themselves and can’t correctly navigate different relationships.
While my husband and I turned out just fine (okay fine, the jury may still be out on that one), it would have behooved us to have the tools to better deal with complex social interactions. Our schools didn’t focus on emotional intelligence, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how critical it is for kids to get this kind of exposure.
Here are four examples of what my kids are teaching me from their emotional intelligence programming:
- No one knows how you feel unless you tell them. Our whole family got hit with Covid over the holidays this year. One after another. It was brutal in so many ways, and one morning I just lost it. I started bawling, and my kids (ages 4 and 5) quickly came to my side. My son quietly held my hand. My daughter stroked my hair and said, “We had no idea you were feeling this way! You have to use your words, mommy!” I immediately stopped crying because I couldn’t believe what my kindergartner had said. I used that opportunity to let them know I was exhausted, and they skipped away to play nicely in the playroom. My mind was blown.
- It’s okay that not everyone is your friend. I was woefully unprepared at the level of drama a kindergarten class could have until I had my kindergartener. I recently discovered that my daughter isn’t best friends with every kid in class, like in daycare and preschool. I asked about some kids in her class, and she, matter of factly, told me they weren’t friends. I guess I made a big deal about it. Questioning her, asking why, and suggesting we could do a play date with these kids. She turned to me and said with a smile, “She doesn’t want to be my friend – and that’s okay!” Wow. Of course, she’s right, and what a healthy way to look at friendships. I realized my almost 40-year-old self was being given sage advice from someone who spent more of her life in diapers than not.
- Sometimes you need some space. I don’t know about you, but my kids are genuine sour patch kids. One minute they’re sour, the next minute, they’re sweet. It can be exhausting being a mom of toddlers. The tantrums are the worst. Before my son started attending a private school, he would blow up at his sister or us. He’d throw things, hit, bite and scream. A couple of months ago, he got really upset and firmly proclaimed, “I need some space right now.” He went into another room and came back 4 minutes later, where he announced, “I am all better now!” I wish I could say I taught him this, but I didn’t. He learned this from school, and it’s a tactic I have been using quite frequently lately.
- It’s 50/50. This one I learned from a kid in 4th grade at the time. She also goes to the same school as my children, and her mother was telling me that they had been arguing at dinner. In the middle of an argument where my friend was reprimanding her daughter; her daughter said, “You’re not owning your 50% in this.” Mic. Drop. It put the brakes on my friend’s nagging and made her realize she, too, was responsible for 50% of the issue. Just because they are our kids doesn’t mean we are always right.
None of these things are mind-blowing ways to approach life. But I failed to teach these simple things to my children and am so glad to know they have a school that helps them with this sort of stuff! It does make them calmer and more confident in how they approach all the relationships in their lives. And it has been an excellent reminder for me too!