The term "Emotional Intelligence" has always resonated with me. It just makes sense to me that teaching my children to recognize, assess and control their own emotions and those of others, would help them grow up to be confident, resilient, self-assured people. There are many methods that help children develop this skill, one way is to share books that teach about understanding your feelings.
I've been wanting to write a post for some time about this idea for a number of reasons. The main one being that nothing helps cement an idea better for my children than hearing it read aloud from a picture book. As I began to think about which titles to include, I realized that I had put together a bookshelf of books that taught not just about emotional intelligence, but also other life skills and values that we think are important in our family.
Our Top Eight
- Anh's Anger is about a boy who gets furious when his grandfather interrupts his play time, comes face to face with his own anger and eventually learns how to express and control his feelings. I love this book because it gives kids concrete ideas of what to do when they "meet" their anger (mindful breathing, moving their bodies to dispel the energy etc.), allows you to have conversations with your children about what they think their anger might look like or what they would do when their anger shows up, and provides a great model for parents on how to be calm and compassionate when children are experiencing such strong emotions.
- Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day. I think the best thing about this book is that it covers a wide range of emotions. Reading it gives you a chance to point out that moods change from day to day (or moment to moment) and gives your child an increased vocabulary because we all know that we feel more than just mad and sad. Sometimes we also feel discouraged, grumpy, lonely and more. Laura Cornell's watercolor illustrations are also very evocative and a great accompaniment to Jamie Lee Curtis' rhyming verse.
- My Mouth Is A Volcano. While not technically about understanding one's emotions, this is a great book to help your kids pay attention to their thoughts. The boy with the volcanic mouth is Louis and when he thinks of something he wants to say, the words wiggle and jiggle their way out and he ends up interrupting everyone around him. His mother finally teaches a fun method that helps him respect others and wait his turn. I can't say my kids have perfected this technique, but the book has given them the language to discuss being interrupted, what it means to be patient and how it feels when you are desperate to say what you want to say. Plus, now my daughter says "you're erupting me!" at least once a day, which is just too cute to correct. I don't like that time outs are used in this book as a way to correct Louis' behavior at first, but when we read it together I use that as a way to talk with our children about how we don't do that in our family and why!
- No Matter What. This is a sweet book that explores a child's anxiety about whether his parent would still love him "no matter what". The little fox ("small") is very grumpy at bedtime and questions the parent ("large"): "If I were a grumpy grizzly bear,/would you still love me?/Would you still care?" or "...if I turned into a squishy bug,/would you still love me and give me a hug?" While similar to books like "Mama Do You Love Me" and "Guess How Much I Love You", this one is still a lovely bedtime addition, especially for little ones, and it gives parents a chance to soothe this common childhood anxiety.
- Did You Fill Your Bucket Today?. This is another of my favorites and it has really helped give my kids language to discuss how being kind to someone else makes them feel. The concept of the book is simple: everyone has an invisible bucket that is filled up or emptied depending on how they interact with others. Being kind to someone fills up not only their bucket, but yours as well. After reading this book my children now often ask if they have filled their buckets when I compliment them for being kind and we can then talk about the emotions it brings up to have an empty bucket or a full one.
- Angry Octopus: A Relaxation Story. This funny story about an octopus that doesn't know how to control his anger until a "sea child" teaches him to calm his mind and body using progressive muscle relaxation has been a hit with my kids since I bought it a few weeks ago. They love to pretend that they are the octopus and practice tightening and releasing all the muscles in their bodies. I haven't tried it yet when my kids are angry, but it has worked wonders at bed time when they are over-stimulated and need help relaxing. I include it in the emotional intelligence list because it does such a good job of helping kids tune in and quiet their minds and bodies. With that skill mastered, they would surely learn how to recognize and control their emotions. If you like this book, be sure to check out the author's site Stress Free Kids she's got some terrific ideas to help with all aspects of parenting.
- The Grouchies. I downloaded this as a free iPad app, but it is also available as a paperback book. A 5-year old boy wakes up with grey, grouchy clouds which follow him all day through a fight with his sister, being mean to friends at the playground and an emotional meltdown at the end of the day. His parents are calm and understanding throughout and eventually give him the advice: "the grouchies could be strong and make their way sound good. But rude and grumpy actions are never understood." Mom and Dad give him a handful of suggestions about how to ward off the bad mood next time. In the morning, he wakes again with the grouchies tempting him, but manages to head off with happy smiles using a plan to be kind to everyone. My children both were very interested in everything the boy was experiencing as it was all very relatable. The drawings are crisp, colorful and pleasant to look at. Best of all, for parents, is a terrific couple of pages at the end of the book with tips and advice on how to help our kids through grouchy moods.
- Although not a book, I would be remiss to not mention The Mother Company's terrific DVD, Ruby's Studio: The Feelings Show. This is a very cool show that helps young children understand, appropriately express, and move through their feelings. The show's host, Ruby, guides children to learn about their emotions through art projects, music, animations and a puppet show. My kids absolutely adore this video and even had a chance to meet Ruby recently and make a "feelings book" with her which was a highlight for my daughter, especially. There are segments in the show that focus on anger, frustration, sadness and more. This is the first episode of what will hopefully be many more to come.
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