A child’s world is simple.
When a child is born, they come with a bag full of emotions. Every time something happens, the child uses their emotions to communicate. When they are hungry or in discomfort, they cry. When they’re happy or excited, they smile and give out gurgled laughs. When they are scared and need to be held, they reach out and grip you in a warm yet tight embrace.
When they want your attention, they will engage in some action to draw you out.
All that a child needs is a parent who is there—attentive, responsive, and engaged.
No matter how old the child gets, this never changes.
Thus, the world of a child is simple and emotional. The child only needs to know that no matter what, their parents will be there and value them for who they are.
“Only when a child feels valued for who they are as an individual, can they fully open themselves up to trust and connection with caregivers & connection…is everything.” ~ Angela Pruess LMFT
However, the world of a parent is complex, fraught with existential realities and everyday battles that can turn into a full-fledged war anytime. A world where being conflicted, in pain, confused, threatened is far more normal than anything else.
Becoming a parent is easier than taking on the role of a parent.
Parenting is tough. It’s demanding, exhausting, confusing yet fulfilling. From the moment a tiny life enters the world of two connected individuals, their identity changes. From then on, it’s about another complex role that they need to carry out in their lives, apart from many others.
They have to now shuffle between being an individual, a spouse, a son/daughter, a career-oriented person, a daughter or son-in-law, and some more as well.
Among all these struggles, parenting is perhaps the most delicate of them all. A role, a relationship based on emotions because an infant requires emotion to be able to feel safe, secure, loved, and connected to the world.
Till this infant grows up to be able to think and feel for themselves, they are dependent on the parents, on their home for all sources of comfort, safety, and identity formation.
Even when they grow up to be an independent individual, they are driven by the same sense of comfort and security that they received from home.
Therefore, for each one of us, our journey into this world begins from our homes. The quality of love, care, communication that we receive in our formative years, paves the way for our future selves in far deeper ways than we realize.
Not only does it shape our personalities, but it also influences our ideas toward relationships, money, career, health.
Therefore, the role of a parent is far deeper and more complex than just being the provider of good quality education and material comforts. A role, which is becoming more and more difficult with each passing day due to the increasing demands of life on all individuals. Hence, it is more crucial than ever before for parents to find varied ways to engage with their kids in an emotionally qualitative way.
Emotionally Qualitative Parenting is the need of the hour.
When we become parents, it’s not just about the material comforts that we can give to our children. It’s about being the kind of parent who our child wants and needs us to be.
Even though there is plenty of research and information that talks about different parenting styles, we only need to look at one expert who can teach us everything we need to know about being a parent—our child.
If you have kids, have seen or been around kids, you will have noticed that all kids give out emotional cues that indicate what they want. Their tantrums, cries, and irritations highlight their need, their discomfort, and point toward something they want.
When they want to be affectionate, they will simply hold your hand or put their head in your lap or just come and hug you.
Kids are communicating with us all the time. Yet, we as adults in this big bad world, often overlook or misunderstand these cues.
All we need to do is remove the cobwebs from our own minds. Those cobwebs that have “responsibility,” “perfection,” “tress,” “do the best for my child” written all over them. We need to simply bring them down and allow ourselves to look beyond them.
When we do, we will find that all we need to be is the kind of parent our child wants us to be.
Foster a relationship based on a simple yet deep-rooted emotional connection with our child.
Connection that comes from being there, listening, playing with, talking to, and understanding the language our child speaks.
A language that only requires pure emotion.
In this big bad world filled with unknown realities for the child, the parent and the connection that they share with their parents is the only place the child can call home.
For a child, home is not a place but their parents to go.
Home is where the parent is.
The important thing to understand here is that the relationship that we have with our parents becomes our roots for the following reasons:
>> An infant has no idea about the world. They depend on someone for the fulfilment of their primal needs like food, water, care, and protection. The infant needs to feel safe and secure. That safety is provided by the parents.
>> As the child begins to grow, the comfort and security provided by the parents become the foundation on which the child stands.
>> Once firmly grounded in the love, connection, care, security, and protection of the parents, the child slowly begins to explore the world. The child begins to take risks because they know that there is someone who will always be there to look out for them.
Have you noticed kids playing? Sometimes, they would just not want to get out of their parent’s lap. Yet, there would be others who would go out there—play, roll in the dirt, do something naughty, and will always be checking to see if their mom or dad are still there. They would always come running back to their parents.
I’m sure as you read this, you would perhaps remember some instances from your childhood where you would always be on the lookout for your parents.
The very first connection we form is with our parents or our primary caregivers (in the absence of parents). It is through their hand-holding that we learn to develop a sense of who we are and what we are capable of. What we think of ourselves, the world, other people is all influenced by what our primary caregivers teach us.
They are our stable and secure base from which we explore the world.
>> When we are separated from our caregivers or loved ones, we experience insecurity and anxiety. We all know that this is a common phenomenon with kids. When kids feel safe with someone, they would happily reach out, respond to them, play and share with them. But when they don’t, they retreat. They cry, get irritated, and want to go into the arms of their mom or dad to feel safe.
>> Since we don’t have any knowledge about how to operate in this world, we depend on the feedback and acknowledgement of our caregivers to feel safe and good about ourselves. As we grow older, we internalize their words and actions as a measure of how to judge ourselves. These ideas and opinions then become our deep-rooted beliefs about ourselves.
Thus, it is no surprise that when children are subjected to harsh, critical, and authoritative parenting, they grow up believing that there is something wrong with them. They grow up with nagging self-doubt that is constantly eating away their self-confidence or at times, they are chased by the ghost of perfection.
The fundamental issue here is that while we as humans are taught a lot about how to be in the realm of social behavior, academics, profession, meeting social standards, we aren’t taught about building emotionally qualitative relationships.
It is this half-baked knowledge that we get and we continue to pass down to our children.
We pass down a collective knowledge of rules, regulations, and norms so that we can raise individuals who can be accepted by society.
We forget or perhaps don’t even know that our primary responsibility as a parent is to raise an individual who has a strong sense of self, believes in their capabilities, can make intentional choices, and take responsibility for themselves.
Most of us know how to become parents biologically but not emotionally.
So then, what does it mean to become an Emotionally Intelligent Parent?
It is to understand that:
1. You are the world for your child. Your child depends on you for everything—love, care, attention, approval, and also their independence.
2. You need to respond to your child’s emotions with warmth, care, affection, and respect.
3. You are raising an individual—a little human. Your primary task is to help this tiny human to find their strengths, capabilities, and goodness within. Your child depends on you for this. Your task is to teach this tiny human to be responsible for their words and actions. Your child learns through you.
4. When the parent-child equation is stable and secure, the relationship and the individuals in it are emotionally balanced.
A crucial element of parenting is conflict management at home because how a child views conflict and reacts to it, is shaped greatly by the conflicts that are present and dealt with, within the family environment.
Conflict—something that adults take for granted because we know it’s a part of life. But for a child, it’s a threat. A fact, that parents often are unable to consider because of their own reasons.
Just like being loved and pampered within our adult relationships makes us feel good from within and constant conflict at work or home creates stress, anxiety, and uneasiness within us; it works exactly the same way for a child. However, the effects are deeper because both these end up shaping their ideas about self, others, and the world.
For a child, it is extremely difficult to make sense of parents fighting and arguing all the time, seeing their parent suffer from stress, abuse a substance, withdraw from them. Constant and unresolved conflict can scar the child in many ways. Depression, anxiety, stress are as common in children as they are in adults.
Emotions that arise during a conflict, if left unchecked and unresolved, ultimately lead to a host of insecurities, fears, and unhealthy coping mechanisms in children—just like they do in adults.
Sadly, a lot of parents fail to see the obvious link between the home environment and the quality of their child’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Home is the stabilizing or destabilizing factor for an individual. It sets the foundation and tone for the quality of the relationships we develop with ourselves and others.
A fact that most parents aren’t even aware of because, at some point in time, their mind creates a fine dividing line between them and their kids. This could also be because of the environment that they were raised in; an environment where emotional communication necessary for conflict resolution was less, unhealthy, or even absent.
The mind picks up patterns and then draws conclusions. If a child sees the parents arguing loudly, they will begin to feel scared and anxious. Every time one parent walks out of the argument, leaving the other spouse in tears, the child begins to grapple with the fear of being abandoned.
Hence, the first movie about life and situations that a child begins to see in their movie theatre called life, is what the parents and family members show to them at home.
Parenting is about building a life. It’s about raising healthy individuals who are self-sufficient, aware, warm, open, and have the courage and ability to contribute to their own lives and to that of others in a meaningful way.
Such individuals build relationships and are the result of the hard work and sensitivity of emotionally aware parents.
Being emotionally aware is not just an important parenting skill, but also important for a quality adult life.
After all, our world at every age and stage runs on the fuel of emotion.