When I Grow Up

New Book Promotes Teaching Children Theory of Mind

In their new book, The Emotionally Intelligent Child, Rachael Katz, MS. ED and Helen Shwe Hadani, PhD address the challenge parents have in helping their children develop the social and emotional skills they will need to be successful in life.

While the idea of emotional intelligence has been the subject of research since the 1950s, it is only recently that the term has become part of our parenting “dictionary.” Understanding and naming emotions is important, and involves multiple skills that are learned on a scale which can largely be dependent on one’s developmental level.

The authors assert that “the ability to view a situation from different perspectives forms the core of emotional intelligence because it helps us make sense of others’ thoughts, feelings and actions.” In this book, they recommend teaching Theory of Mind to children. While this is a complex idea for small children, the authors say that this will help children have awareness of their own mental states as well as an understanding that others’ mental states may be different than theirs (while also influencing the mental states of others).

The book presents new ways of thinking about challenging parenting moments – ones that focus on the child’s needs rather than the parent’s discomfort and suggests ways to identify the best times to address behavioral issues. It also offers tips and techniques to help children learn about internal and relationship conflicts and how to manage them. Recognizing that this does not come naturally to all parents, the authors include practical strategies that will be easy to implement in real-life situations.

Importantly, the authors remind parents to pause and consider whether their children’s behavior is developmentally appropriate, i.e. is your child capable of doing/understanding what you are asking of them? They want to help you “parent more patiently and proactively while simultaneously fostering your child’s emotional balance and social awareness.”