Homework, Frustration, and Emotional Intelligence

Homework

While having lunch the other day with a friend, the conversation moved from simply catching up on the details of our lives to deeper places. We started to talk about emotional intelligence and the role it plays in our success.

To provide an example, I shared a story.

A few years ago, while trying to help one of our daughters with her homework, I got upset. The helping, the explanations, and the examples were not gaining traction. In fact, it seemed to make things worse. My emotional glass got cloudy.

I have already admitted to having Emotional Rickets when it comes to emotional intelligence. Of the five hierarchical steps by Daniel Goleman, the first two always help me unpack issues that I may be having.

Step 1, Self-Awareness

Step 2, Self-Regulation

If I am having a problem with Self-Regulation (getting upset), I go back down a Step to Self Awareness and try to figure out what is happening.

What is the negative emotional trigger? What else may be going on inside?

“Why is helping with her homework causing you to get upset?”

“I don’t know, maybe because I want her to succeed.”

“Ok, that is one possibility, but helping her succeed shouldn’t cause you to be angry. What else is happening, what are you afraid of?”

“I am afraid that she won’t do well, that she won’t get into college, that this time was somehow wasted.”

“Keep going.”

“I am afraid that this means that I have not helped or prepared her enough. That her failing is a reflection of me. That I am not a good Dad.”

There it was: the real issue. Fear of failing as a Dad.

I was trying to Self-Regulate an emotional state around homework that was really about something else. By going back a step, by finding greater Self-Awareness, the Self-Regulation becomes easier.

It was never about the homework. In fact, the inability to Self-Regulate was actually contributing to that fear becoming a reality.

Thankfully, she still lets me help with homework. (After some serious apologizing and a few tears.) Those feelings or fears still exist, but the ability to regulate the emotions in the moment have become much easier.

The next time you find yourself getting upset about homework or having trouble with Self-Regulation when [insert your specific story here] try this simple process.

Take a step back, ask yourself the hard questions.

What is really happening? What are you afraid of?

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