Children have the difficult task of remembering all the rules and limitations of their day. There are just so many dos and don’ts. My mother was the queen of those and it even came down to which doors to keep open and which ones must remain closed. Some things don’t change. As I walk into my mother’s house, I actually have to stop, re-acclimate myself to where I am so that I get it right with the garage door, then the den door into the main house. Last time she changed the rules. I could feel the anxiety build as if I was 5 years old once again. Oh my goodness, that was a long time ago and it is still there. I remember as a child thinking I had no freedom or choices. And not getting it right back then, caused many tears and bad feelings about who I was. Though this is a personal example, classrooms also have many dos and don'ts and teachers and aides have good days and bad days. Some days those rules are flexible and some days, you know those days, they aren't. A teacher I had in the 5th grade, I even remember her name, she would yell with such an attitude that I would hide under my desk.
Children believe that they have no freedom and very few real choices. As young children, there aren’t many. Yet, they do have one very important freedom, what they think and feel. Teaching children that they do have choices in small structured ways gives them the ability to become and feel an independence even at a very young age. They become aware of managing their emotional day in their thoughts and responses. They learn to choose to listen to negative messages or not too. They learn to feel hurt or think about whether that person may be having a bad day. Learning that it isn’t always about them is an important life skill. Our emotional well-being depends on this as it would have changed many of my belief systems along the way that certainly were embedded in that 5 year old emotional memory bank.
Choice is an important lesson to teach in the emotional intelligence spectrum. However, we tend to forget about those feelings and thoughts and make choices about peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese and jelly. Though also critical in feeling less controlled, we must not forgot to teach the emotional choices even at a very young age.
What a gift to give our children. Teaching them that they do indeed have the freedom and choice to create a different kind of day with their thoughts, words and actions. What a brave gift to give indeed. Giving up control that we thought we had, now there is progress!