I stumbled upon an interesting article published by CNN - Mothers' talk is key to kids' social skills. The article went first through a usual affirmation that talking about feelings and labeling them is important in social understanding and in developing social skills later in the childhood. What I found really fascinating, however, is the information in the very end of the article. I quote, "...social understanding does not guarantee good behavior, the authors said. Children who showed the most sophisticated social skills in this study also behaved the most negatively toward their mothers in the team task of steering a model car around a race track... This negative behavior probably came about because if children feel that they can label their feelings, they're more comfortable expressing a wide range of emotions..."
I know that Western culture puts a big emphasis on expressing ones' emotions, but I am not at all sure that we are going in the right direction by telling our children that it's OK to be angry or sad. We also need to teach them at a young age how to deal with negative feelings. Recognizing them and talking about them is a good first step, but we also need to teach them actions - deep breathing, choosing an enjoyable activity, listening to a lively music, a burst of physical activity. We also need to model appropriate behavior. If we raise our voice when frustrated, they will too. If we spank in anger, they will eventually hit in anger too. If we are sad and helpless, they will feel it's their fault and will eventually learn to be depressed and helpless as well. The emotional health of our children is tied really strongly to our own emotional state, so we need to be able to take care of themselves too while taking care of our young children.