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On-Site Staff / Opinion / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Who Do We Need To Become For Our Children’s Sake?

How often do we take the time to focus on ourselves? Focus on our dreams, visions, and desires…

Unless we are intentional about creating the life we want, we will not take the time to develop our emotional intelligence to match our personal passions in life.

Not minding your own emotional intelligence can create havoc and upset with the people closest to you, especially with your children.

Our role in the youth development world is to develop our children’s social and emotional capacity so they can create the life they love. That’s why I am so passionate about this work. My passion is to bring awareness and tools to all adults on the importance of developing our emotional intelligence first, so we can understand how to build that intelligence in our children. But how much time do you take to mind your emotional intelligence? Have you really thought about how you want to design your relationships? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your children? What are your clear boundaries with any relationship?

I have two amazing young men for sons. I have to say; our journey has been incredible as we have grown up together. I was very intentional about who I needed to become for the sake of my son’s emotional well-being.

This was especially true with my oldest son, because when he turned 10-years-old, he was a different kid, like, talking back to me. I thought, “Wait a minute! Who are you?” I reversed the question to myself, and I asked him. “What kind of mom do you need right now?” He began acting out and started getting in trouble in school. He never did that before. So, I was like, who are you? Who do I need to be for you? We sat down and had an in-depth conversation about what he needed from me. He told me he wanted me to listen to him more. He told me he did not want to share with me when something was wrong, because he thought I would scream at him. Well, that hit me like a ton of bricks on my chest! I started listening to him.

We created this practice where we faced each other and took turns listening. We also could not interrupt each other or make faces (that rule was for me). And, we still do that today, when we get into heated discussions because we are both hot-headed. I started paying attention to his behaviors, and every year for his birthday ever since then, I would ask him. “What kind of mom do you need now?” I quickly learned that for my child to develop emotionally, I was the one who needed to change emotionally. And it really made the difference. I had to stop some behaviors that were not serving me, and especially my son. I had to stop being an enabler because that’s who I was with both of my sons. I would say you have to clean your room now, and if they did not clean it quickly, I would go in and clean it for them. My younger son would say, “I like the way I clean my own room. You do not do it right.” They started speaking up more and say things like, “Mom, I don’t need that right now, I need something else.”

I taught both of my sons how to request the relationship they wanted from me as a mom.

So, how do we design our relationships? We are responsible for our emotional intelligence in order to make a difference with anyone else. How do we create a program of adults managing our children’s social and emotional well-being, when they are not managing their own? Just how do we know what values really matter to us? What are the absolutely no holds barred values that are important to us and take note that the people around us have those same values? One value that is very important to me is integrity because I worked hard to get that for myself. Be impeccable with your word. Check out the “The Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz. A quick read. I know that I am not impeccable with my word all the time, but I get to practice, and I am so much better today. It matters to me, to apologize to someone because I did not keep my word with them. At the same time, what matters to me is that people around me understand that integrity is important to me.

I’m in my 50s, I feel fabulous. Better than I ever felt in my whole life. Now is when I really feel like I’ve come into myself because I understand who I am. I know what my vision is and what I’m up to. It requires me to develop myself consistently. I put on my Superwoman outfit pose to remind myself how fabulous I am because I’m up to something. I physically adjust my body posture when I take on my superwoman pose to remember who I am today. I must figure out how to overcome my negative thoughts about myself to focus on my vision. I use the analogy, what superpower will I use today? I need something to remind myself that I have all the answers inside of me. The vision that I have is to create environments for children to be safe and fully self-expressed, so they can thrive. That is a huge undertaking. There are a lot of children in New York City and beyond, right? So, who do I need to become to have my vision realized?

No doubt, I have passion. I want you to understand, we need to create ourselves intentionally, for the sake of our children. Because if we do not know how to design ourselves, it would be challenging for us to understand what our kids need emotionally and socially. We tend to give them what we believe they should have, not what they need or desire.

Let me share my story to put this in a better context. My story is one of the reasons why I know that I am so passionate about emotional intelligence. Even today, when I speak about my story, I feel the nerves deep in my throat.

I am a twin sister. I am the pretty one, my sister Liz, is the smart one, brilliant actually. When we were about seven or eight years old, my mom migrated from the Dominican Republic to New York City. We are a big family with seven siblings, and Liz and I are the youngest. Everybody else is four years older or more. At home, I remember a bunch of adults all over the place, mostly in chaos. Liz and I would just watch and listen. I heard a lot, I saw a lot that did not serve me back then. One incident really stuck out for me. We were in elementary school. Liz was always three grades ahead of me, and all her grades were excellent. I, on the other hand, struggled with reading and writing. My mom’s practice was to always look at the report card. She looked at the first three sections, which were reading, writing, and comprehension. In her mind, the first three were the most critical grades because it determined our intelligence. I would have “U” for unsatisfactory in all 3 areas. Liz had all “E” for excellent. She was in the gifted class. One day, my grandmother, “Mama,” who came to this country with very little traditional education, received a letter in the mail. I was excited to read it to her. I knew she was waiting for it. I ran over to Mama with excitement, “Mama, Mama, the letter you’ve been waiting for is here.” She took the letter out of my hand and said, “Give me that- you do not know how to read, your sister will read it.” That moment started my trajectory of believing that I am not smart enough. Throughout my whole life, maybe even as fresh as yesterday, I am still working it out with my superpowers. But I never give up, and now I am a doctorate student, I started in 2016, and my grade point average is 3.67! Yeah, me! And it turns out that I have a learning disability.

Here is what I’m trying to say to you! The one belief that I have been stuck with is that I am not smart enough. My whole life, I’ve been overcoming that conversation in my mind. So now let’s think about how our children are emotionally functioning through this world. Check out this video from, Resolving Conflict Creativity Program by Linda Lantieri. We need to learn emotional intelligence skills and have tools to overcome negative thoughts about ourselves.

What are the everyday words we say to our children?

Are those words building our children’s self-worth or breaking them down?

I suggest that you stop and write down what values shape the relationship you have with children. Write them down and find the tools you need to change your own behavior to intentionally develop our children’s emotional intelligence.

Thank you for listening, that matters to me.

Today, I was so excited to write this blog, I fasted for breakfast. Oh, I did have my black Cafe Bustelo with no sugar.

Author: @soniatoledo

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