Emotional Literacy -- The Key to Preventing Domestic Violence
9/9/2015 2:42 AM
There are many factors the come together to produce a man or woman who is violent toward those they profess to love. An act of abuse is always a choice – it is not an ‘anger problem,’ it is way of exerting power and control over a situation. The simplest way to understand this is to think about the abuser when outside the home, at work. In all likelihood, there are frustrations and disappointments that occur frequently at work – but generally, the abuser does not fly into a rage and assault his boss or co-workers. Why? Because abusive behavior is about power and control, not anger; and in a work environment, the worker simply doesn’t hold all the power.
With all that being said, it is still the case that abusive behavior is behavior that has been learned one way or another over the course of the abuser’s life. One aspect of raising children who will NOT be abusive later in life to others is developing the child’s emotional literacy. Emotional Literacy is the ability to recognize, understand and appropriately express our emotions. Just as verbal literacy is the basic building-block for reading and writing, emotional literacy is the basis for perceiving and communicating emotions. Becoming emotionally literate is learning the alphabet, grammar and vocabulary of our emotional lives. As Claude Steiner put it: “To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and improves the quality of life around you. Emotional literacy improves relationships, creates loving possibilities between people, makes co-operative work possible, and facilitates the feeling of community. Teaching our children to be emotionally literate is vital for their own well-being, that of their future families, and our community at large. But how do we do it?
Being emotionally literate has three components
1. Knowing what feelings we have, how strongly and why.
2. Caringly recognizing other people's emotions, their strength and reasons
3. Developing the love-centered ability to express or hold back our feelings so as to enhance the quality of our lives and the quality of life of those around us.
As with all such subjects, there is great depth to be explored here. The man that coined the term ‘emotional literacy’ is Claude Steiner – and his full book, “Emotional Literacy; Intelligence with Heart” (http://www.emotional-literacy.com/2000.htm ) is available online. As with all such emotional skill – the first step is for parents to develop them themselves so that they can model the appropriate behavior to our children. As Muslims, we are fortunate to have the behavior of our beloved Prophet, may Allah Bless him and give him peace, as a model and a guide. At the same time, modern thinking on these topics can also be helpful to us by setting the information in a modern context.
Some resources helpful in this regard are
“Fostering Emotional Literacy in Young Children: Labeling Emotions ( http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/kits/wwbtk21.pdf ) This is an excellent presentation with speaker’s notes about the basic techniques for teaching children to know how to label the feelings they have. The presentation was funded by the Child Care and Head Start Bureaus of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, and is one of many ‘brief training kits’ available. For more, see Vanderbilt’s Center on the Emotional and Social Foundations for Early Learning website. (http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/ )
You may also be interested in the free resources available through the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for young children. http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/ which focuses on interventions with challenging children.