A self-aware child is equipped to understand their emotions, thoughts, and principles. Beyond that, they can discern the effect these things will have on their behavior.
If a playground bully cuts in front of a self-aware child who is waiting to play foursquare, they’ll understand what’s bubbling up inside of them. The self-aware child will identify the emotions as anger or hurt. They will recognize that if they don’t get a hold on these emotions, they could spill over into the classroom.
In addition, self-aware children should be able to critically view personal strengths and weaknesses and assess opportunities for growth. For example, if a self-aware child is good at math and science, they would recognize this aptitude and be disposed to join the school STEM club. Conversely, if they have no interest in or aptitude for athletics, they would not fall to pieces if they weren’t chosen to lead out on the school’s basketball team.
Strong self-awareness is crucial to social-emotional development. The sooner you can help your child develop self-awareness, the more prepared they will be to succeed in and out of the classroom.
How can parents contribute to their child’s self-awareness? It may not be as ambiguous a task as you’d think. Likely, you’re already using some of these techniques. But to most effectively nurture a child’s self-awareness, you should be mindful of the tools at your disposal and take advantage of every opportunity to leverage them for good.
We polled our Atlanta private school teachers for ideas. Here’s what they had to say:
Make a list.
Sit down with your kids and ask them to name some things they appreciate about themselves. Point them in the right direction by beginning with one or two positive attributes you see in them. For example, you could say, “I love how you love giving gifts to others. You’re so generous!” Then write down generosity as a positive trait, and allow the student to continue by naming other exemplary qualities. You don’t need to point out weaknesses here, but the exercise might naturally trigger your child to consider areas that need shoring up.
Play a game of “what if?”
Present a variety of scenarios that your kids might find themselves in. “What if your friends were talking bad about someone else at school?” “What if a friend asked you to shoplift at a store?” “What if someone called you a mean name at school?”
Encourage kids to discuss how they might feel, think, and behave if such a situation happened to them. Ask them if they’ve ever found themselves in a similar situation, and allow them to share how they felt and reacted. This is a great way to get an inside look at where each child is on their journey to self-awareness and the way they process various situations and emotions.
Create an emotion journal.
Get out the craft supplies and allow your child to channel their creativity into an Emotion Journal. Provide pages with daily prompts for expressive journaling such as, “Today I Feel…” followed by a list of emotions, or even pictures displaying the following options:
Follow this prompt with a space for your child to journal or draw about why they are feeling this way.
According to WebMD, expressive writing is a great way to regulate emotions. They note, “Brain scans of people who wrote about their feelings showed that they were able to control their emotions better than those who wrote about a neutral experience.”
Journaling about feelings and emotions is a practice that both adults and children can find highly beneficial. It will encourage and improve self-awareness.
Set realistic goals.
Encourage your child to consider areas that could use some work. Then, help them to come up with a list of steps that they could take to improve in these areas. For example, suppose a student recognizes that he struggles with regulating his anger. In that case, he might decide that one way to help himself avoid angry outbursts would be to take five deep breaths when he feels the emotion getting ready to strike.
Help your child set realistic “big goals” with a series of “little goals” to help them reach those major milestones. Try to let them do as much of the brainstorming as possible. Children are always more likely to follow techniques they come up with themselves.
Point out their strengths.
It’s no secret that positive reinforcement is the best way to nurture exemplary behavior in children (and adults as well). Don’t hold back on verbally praising your kids when their strengths shine. Take it a step further by writing them a note and leaving it on their desk, or even sending it to them in the mail.
Highlight a situation where you noticed your child responding positively, or congratulate them on the growth that you’ve witnessed in a specific area. This reinforcement will foster an environment where kids can thrive.
“Monkey see, monkey do.” The same is true with children! By being mindful of improving your own self-awareness, you’ll be better prepared to model healthy self-awareness to your children. Take the time to share with your kids how various situations have made you feel or react, even if those feelings and reactions were not all positive. This will go a long way in helping your kids become more comfortable with examining and articulating their own emotions and behavior.
Teaching self-awareness to your children is the key to a healthy learning environment. By understanding their own emotions and responses, kids will find it easier to consider the feelings and actions of others. This will help them be more empathetic. They will also be able to regulate their emotions better, leading to improved behavior in the classroom and beyond.
Finally, children who can effectively communicate their feelings will develop healthier relationships with their teachers and classmates. To create a learning culture where students can thrive, self-awareness must be given a seat in the classroom.