Monday, April 30, 2012

Turtle

When my kids were little, I read a book called Destructive Emotions.  There is a chapter about teaching children how to handle their emotions; how to calm down and use their intelligence rather that acting out the arousal of a destructive emotion.  The following is a tool to teach children to assess the emotion before acting on that emotion. Emotional intelligence for children in a nut shell:

“This is a story about a little turtle.  This little turtle liked to play by himself and he liked to play with his friends.  He liked to watch TV and play games outside, but he didn’t really like to go to school very much.  He didn’t like sitting in a classroom and listening to the teacher for long periods of time.  It was hard for him.  Often the little turtle would get angry at his friends.  His friends might take his pencil or push him, or bother him in some way, and when that happened, the little turtle would get very, very angry.  He would often hit back or he would say mean things to the other children.  After a while, other children didn’t want to play with the little turtle.  And the little turtle felt upset.  He felt angry and he felt confused, and he felt sad because he couldn’t control himself and didn’t know how to solve his problem.  Then one day he met a very wise old turtle who was three hundred years old and lived at the edge of the town.  He said to the wise old turtle, ‘What can I do? School is a problem for me.   I can’t behave myself. I try but I always fail.’   The wise old turtle said to him, ‘You already have the solution to the problem inside yourself.  It’s in your shell.  When you feel very upset or very angry and you can’t control yourself, you can go inside your shell.  When you’re inside your shell you can calm down.  When I go inside my shell,’ the wise old turtle said, ‘I do three things.  I tell myself to stop; I take one long deep breath, or more if I need to; and then I tell myself what the problem is.’  The wise old turtle and the little turtle practiced this idea.  And the little turtle said he wanted to try this when he got back to his class. The next day he’s doing his work when another child begins to bother him.  He starts to feel the anger welling up inside; his hands are hot and his heartbeat is going up.  He remembers what the wise old turtle said, and he folds his arms and legs into his shell, where it is peaceful and no one can bother him, and he thinks about what he should do.  He takes a deep breath, and when he comes out of his shell he sees his teacher smiling.  He tried this over and over again.  Sometimes it fails and sometimes it succeeds, but little by little he learns how to control himself by using his shell.  He makes friends and he likes school more because now he is a turtle that knows how to manage himself.”

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