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?

Emotional Rickets

I think I have Emotional Rickets.  (Bear with me on this one.)

During a recent conversation, I was explaining how certain situations cause an emotional response that is hard for me to regulate. Anger moves pretty fast, and there are times it catches me off guard.

According to Daniel Goleman, there are five hierarchical levels of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

2. Self-Regulation

3. Motivation

4. Empathy

5. Social Skills

I like to picture these five areas as going up steps, one at a time to reach the top. Mastering a prior step helps bring you to the next. Whenever I have an issue with one of these steps, I back up a step to see if there was something in a previous step area that would provide a clue the issue at hand. In this case, I was having an issue with Self-Regulation (step 2).   That left only one step to return to: Self Awareness (step 1).

Rickets is a disorder caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. It leads to softening and weakening of the bones. Bones are not only are weaker, but have additional pain and tenderness.

So, Emotional Rickets is when you have a lack of some positive emotional events (and perhaps some negative ones) that leave you in a weakened state.  In additional to weakness, you can add additional pain and tenderness from an emotional perspective.

I repeat, I think I have Emotional Rickets.

This revelation seemed to help, suddenly I could picture the issue.

If my legs were injured, I would not run as hard.

If my arms were injured, I would not lift as often.

If my back was injured, I would not move around as much.

For some reason, I was expecting my brain and emotions to respond to events as if there were no prior injury, no prior events, no limitations. As if it were strong.

lifting_brain

(Image Courtesy of blogs.hawkeyecollege.edu)

But my Emotional Rickets require me to be much more aware of my limits. I may need to work harder than others to achieve the same results. I will be sore, and will not want to go again. I may need more rest and recovery time after each event.

In time, I hope to strengthen this area. I do not kid myself about the amount of work and time it may take to do make even small gains. Progress will require some discipline and work.

Where have you had Emotional Rickets? Where have you been left in a tender and weakened state? Where has this hindered relationships or caused issues? Maybe a little progress in this area for all of us could really change the world.