Balance Your Child’s Emotional Intensity
Part 2: Dealing with your child's emotional outbursts.
Posted Apr 15, 2020
I began Part 1 of my interview with Trevor Tebbs in an earlier post, Distance Learning—Dealing With the Emotional Outbursts, which you may wish to reference so that you can follow our entire discussion on our topic of children’s emotional intensity.
In this section, our main focus is on balancing emotions from the perspective of whether your child is an introverted or extraverted learner. Our aim is to offer a few ways of looking at today’s scenario, particularly with the unexpected dose of home learning taking place. However, the tools we mention are not just applicable to tamping down intensity during the present COVID-19 pandemic but toward any times of stress in any household – even without the issues of distance learning.
For anyone just tuning in, I’ll re-introduce Dr. Tebbs: Trained in both the U.K. and the U.S., Tebbs is now an educational consultant who specializes in the holistic assessment of children. He is also the founder of a strength-based, computer-aided system for collecting and managing rich data called Chandelier©.
He is a visiting professor at the Institute of Gifted Children in Ukraine and has been recently invited to serve as a board member for the Junior Academy of Science. As a veteran educator, his experience has included teaching in English elementary schools and special schools for children struggling with behavioral problems or severe cognitive and physical disabilities.
On our side of the Atlantic, he served as Assistant Director of the University of Connecticut (UConn) Honors Program. As a professor in higher education, he has taught courses including Educational Psychology, Arthurian Myth, Art Education, Critical Thinking and Curriculum Development.
Back in 2014, he and I pursued various elements and discussion of parenting gifted and talented children. You may wish to check out the series of three posts that began with Gifted Learners—New Holistic Methodology and Tech.
Learning, Growing and Flowing
Considerations of personality are of interest to educators at all levels of teaching – from elementary through college – whether you are teaching or taking courses live in a traditional classroom or any of the hybrid types, such as with low residency-distance learning combos. We all have stock here. If we are to consider ourselves taking a holistic approach to education, parenting, and life-learning, the inclusion of personality in our thinking and actions is vital to keep an individual learning, growing and flowing.
This vantage point provides information about the individual child’s unique energetic needs at many levels. From here, we can cultivate and strengthen the child’s self-awareness and make daily experiences more satisfying and meaningful.
Ideally, the more we guide and nurture such experiences, the more we can help children develop a "flowing" mindset into which they will naturally enter into again and again, learn to self-sustain, and heighten their own challenges along the way.
We began our discussion in Part 1 of this series with extraverts. So what can we do to help tamp the intensity?
“Given what we understand to be characteristic of an individual – young or older – in terms of preference,” Tebbs explained, “the extravert will learn in a qualitatively different way. They may also be content with a differing outcome from the learning.”
The idea then would be to plan ahead with their preferences in mind. Tebbs offered these four tips you might try to get you started.
- Consider ways in which emotional intensity in partnership with your child’s other intensities (intellectual – an intense desire for deep learning) may be harnessed. Identify passions, interests, such as a penchant for learning about space, prehistoric times, etc.
- Determine ways whereby your child may share passions, interests, exploration with friends, for example, via Skype, Zoom, and other social media.
- Consider the fact that they are likely to prefer to look and learn independently rather than listen.
- Provide different choices of materials that provide opportunities for hands-on experimental constructive activities.
In the case of presentation of unusually extreme behaviors seemingly initiated by boredom, frustration, misunderstanding, you might try allowing the child to talk about the situation as soon, and as thoroughly, as possible.
Bear in mind the most productive parenting is authoritative, not authoritarian or permissive. After years of observation, I have found children generally appreciate structure. Some children prefer a somewhat flexible structure; others feel more comfortable/secure if the structure is somewhat rigid.
Whatever is the case, I would recommend working on a structure ( a rubric) with the child, such as encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving and the incorporation of his or her own ideas with respect to how best to move forward in a constructive/productive way.”
As we mentioned in Part One of our discussion, the introvert’s personality is distinctively different from those elements associated with the extravert.
Tebbs provides the following details: “The most significant difference, in unison with emotional intensity,” he says, is “the preference an introverted child has to work either completely on his/her own, or with a very small group, i.e., perhaps one or two close friends on a project of shared interest. While an extravert tends to act and then think, the introvert will think and then act. This particular behavior is extremely relevant to distance learning in general. It is even more relevant, especially in the context of emotional intensity, if whatever is required by a school is highly time-sensitive.”
More specifically, Tebbs further explains a few details that may surface that can concern and, once in a while, even alarm: “Introverts need time to reflect and think about their response, be it an essay, answers to multiple-choice questions, or a solution to a problem." This piece may not be too surprising. However, Tebbs explains:
"When not allowed sufficient time to think, panic exacerbated by anxiety, fear of failure, dysfunctional perfectionism may set in. Parents and teachers need to be sensitive to such concerns – they are real and potentially dangerous, especially in teenagers who may already be grappling with identity and self-concept, natural but often stressful anatomical changes, relationships, and other issues. When in the midst of such matters, distance learning, while by itself, is impartial and impassive; may be considered helpful or a nuisance depending on the manner of its delivery, the demands it brings and the attitude of those posting it. For a naturally sensitive young person, trying hard not to offend, do their best and not let themselves down, the situation may be deeply distressful. An introvert’s typical reticence to talk about matters such as this requires a special level of understanding from parents and teachers. If firm levels of trust and understanding are well established at home and, or with official contacts in school, subject teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, etc., then the implications associated with elevated intensity may be mitigated.”
- Consider how emotional intensity in partnership with other intensities, especially imaginational and intellectual intensity may be harnessed in productive ways. Identifying the values, interests and particular skills associated with an introvert is no less important than with an extravert.
- Determine ways whereby he/she may be provided space and opportunity to work either independently (e.g., painting, playing an instrument), or with a very close friend in the context of shared interests, e.g., composing a song and developing musical accompaniment, use Skype, Zoom, and other social media if and when appropriate and, or convenient. (Although ‘loners,’ introverts still need social contact but it has to have ‘meaning’ and thus go beyond being superficial and perhaps temporary.)
- Consider an introvert’s preference for purposeful projects which go beyond simply gathering knowledge for the sake of passing an exam and getting a grade. If the young person is not only an introvert but, for example, also intuitive, feeling and perceiving), (INFP) he or she may find great joy in working independently on some potentially beneficial community project of their own devising.
- Provide different choices of equipment, material, opportunities and, or psychical spaces to allow hands-on, independent or mentor guided experimental activities, e.g., in the visual, dramatic, musical arts.
Tebbs emphasizes, “The most productive parenting is authoritative. Regardless of personality type, children generally appreciate a structure, especially a structure they have been given opportunity to create themselves or in partnership with someone they trust. Ownership of a plan of action generates a healthy self-concept, a sense of maturity and responsibility, a penchant for critical thinking, problem-solving and incorporating his or her own ideas regarding the most satisfying, constructive/productive way forward – all of which may help mitigate an intense response to daily frustrations whether at home or at school.”
Observe, discover, try something out, evaluate and learn from your experience. Then re-tweak for future use. Teach your children to do the same.
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