Teaching Your Baby About Feelings and Self-Control

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Do you know people you think are smart about feelings or tuned in? They can tell you how they feel. They seem to know how others are feeling, too. Tuned-in people also know how to control their own strong feelings, like anger, so they don’t have to act
on them.
People who are smart about feelings are said to have emotional intelligence. Why is emotional intelligence important? Children with emotional intelligence are more likely to feel comfortable and enjoy school. They seem to get along with others. They usually
feel liked and accepted. They know how to work well in a group. They are less likely to lose control and have behavior problems.
Teaching your child about feelings and self-control starts in the first five years of life. That’s when parents can really make a difference.
Being in Tune
You can teach your baby about feelings by being in tune. Scientists call this attunement. Being in tune means that you know what your baby is feeling and you let him know that you know. When you do this, you help build the connections in his brain that produce those feelings. You are wiring his brain for understanding feelings and for thinking. You are building emotional intelligence.
To be in tune, you have to be a good observer. As you watch what your baby does and listen to what he says, you can ask yourself:
• What is he feeling right now?
• How should I respond?
• How can I let him know I understand?

Being in tune with your baby is like being a mirror—reflecting back what you think your baby is feeling. Here are some examples of what you can do and why these things are so important.

If your babyYou canWhy this is important
Smiles at you.Smile back, nod your
head, talk to your baby.
This teaches your baby
how to relate to others
and how much you
love her.
Is surprised by
a sudden loud
noise and
cries out.
Hold her, pat her gently,
say, “What a big noise.
Don’t worry. I won’t let
anything happen to you.”
This shows your baby
that she is safe and
you understand how
she feels.
Gets excited
about seeing a
puppy.
Show that you are
excited also and say,
“Oh look at the puppy!
He’s so cute!”
This encourages your
baby’s interest in
exploring the world
and strengthens
feelings of joy.
Sees a stranger
(someone you
know) and
screams in fear.
Stay with your baby,
reassure her, introduce
her to the person.
This helps her learn
to trust others and
overcome her fears
about new people.

As your child gets older, you can talk more about feelings so he learns the words to say what he feels. Children who learn to use words instead of their fists when they have strong feelings are developing self-control. They know how they feel and can let others know without acting out. Here are some examples.

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