Talking to children about homeostasis

I spent some time thinking about what universal laws can be applied to the government of our inner world. Because I do things like this. I was inspired by Isaac Newton. I read his book PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This is because my oldest asked me to teach him physics, and I wanted to see the history of how Newton’s three laws about force were formed. I was rather stunned by how succinctly Newton stated his laws. They are at the beginning of the book and don’t take up much space. He uses rather simple examples to explain them. And then the rest of the book is, of course, the massive number of experiments and calculations he made to come up with his theories.

I wanted to similarly come up with some universal laws about emotions. You see, this is kind of my thing. I study the age-related developmental stages of children, which you can find at the main page of my website, The Observant Mom. Part of my overall life philosophy is that getting to know this inner world of ours with better detail, such as indeed the stages children go through, will help humanity out immensely. I pit this conscious understanding of our inner emotional world against oppressive paradigms that seek to control it. Major moral paradigms, behaviorist in nature, seek to control our emotions. They say as much. They want to “program” our emotions with the “right values.” Not just to have manners on occasion. But to tinker with our emotions themselves: controlling what we end up loving or hating. They do this in the name of making sure we are civilized, good, moral people. And, in the process, they take away our emotional freedom.

So, I wanted to set up universal laws of emotional intelligence to counter behaviorist philosophy. I spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time, thinking about it. What laws about our inner world can universally be applied? Meaning, to everyone. The question itself seems absurd, doesn’t it? Actually, books, blogs, and social media are filled with people who blindly act on the assumption that their advice applies to everyone. So, at least I’m actually thinking about it.

Here’s what I came up with. The first law of emotional intelligence is that feelings driving us to homeostasis. This means that your natural feelings are on your team. They want to guide you in a way such that you find the energy, nourishment, and environment that suits you best. On a basic level, if it’s too cold, your feelings tell you to go inside. And I propose this law is truly universal, because it applies to animals and even plants. Plants do things to seek that nourishing sunlight. Here is this glutton unabashedly sitting in homeostasis as it actively faces the sun–totally nude ! This is a sunflower I grew some time ago:

A sunflower unapologetically sits in homeostasis

The second law I came up with is, “Emotions arise, the mind considers.” In other words, we cannot control what natural emotions arise in us, but when they do, we can consciously identify them. This is what science is to reality itself: no more than a conscious identification of a natural phenomenon. It is emotional intelligence itself, with “intelligence” meaning the correct identification of something. I do not at all propose to tell you what to do after you identify the emotion. You might decide you are angry for no real reason. You might decide that little ache in your belly is telling you to check in on something. I propose no action about how to handle it. Rather, simply the identification of the emotion. Is this law universal? Well, it’s certainly possible to live unconsciously. However, this basic emotional intelligence tool tends to make us more patient, more mature, and have more emotional fortitude as we deal with rocky life situations. I do think as humans, as conscious beings, it helps us. And it become necessary when things are amiss. How do we know we are not in homoeostasis? We need the second law.

The third law is that strong negative emotions drive transformation. I purposely put this after the first and second law. The third law states that when big negative emotions continue to wash over you, it means your current consciously chosen path is wrong for you and your body is screaming like hell. To know this, you need to identify the pain (the second law). And to know what to do or where to go after you realize something is majorly wrong, you need the first law. What should you do? The goal is to get back to homoeostasis. If you want to follow my work on these laws, you can see my website about it here.

And then I thought about these laws. If these laws are true to how humans operate and are needed for human health, and I believe they are, shouldn’t they be actively taught to children? This really is everything. For me, it was at the root of my healing. I learned how to calm down big emotions and soothe myself. I also learned how to consciously identify my emotions as fast-moving, rocky situations are happening. This happy home is the fertile ground on which we grow.

Getting back to homoeostasis is also what I actively try to do as a parent. I am constantly trying to get my children back to a state of homoeostasis. Their emotions are a clue to me that something is amiss. This is the entire point of my book series about these developmental stages: Misbehavior is Growth. My argument is that when children erupt emotionally, it is a clue to us to come to them. Something is developmentally going on and this is their instinctual call to us. This is opposite of most advice, which I argue, still to this day, without quite saying as much, wants children to be “seen and not heard.” We still want children to “learn independent play.” At one point, not long ago, parents were told to “ignore the behavior so children learn it’s not rewarded.” The common advice given to parents now is to “state your boundary and walk away.” Meaning, ignore children’s emotional cues. My parenting philosophy is distinctly different. I present it in Misbehavior is Growth and books are out now for toddlers, threes, and fours.

As soon as I thought about teaching children about homeostasis, an opportunity arose. My daughter, as she does so often, came out to see my early in the morning. I sit outside to watch the sunrise. She puts her shoes on sometimes and bursts through our back door to come join me. She ALWAYS wants to talk. We had previously talked about the nourishing ions that the the sun gives us, and she loves to bathe in the sun like I do. So, it was the perfect opportunity to talk about homeostasis. The sun felt SO GOOD. Glowing in that is homeostasis. I asked her directly if I could teach her a new word, indeed, “homoeostasis.” (Yes, of course: children love well-intentioned, direct lessons from adults.) Then I went over a simple example. Which one is homoeostasis: having fun in the snow or shivering in it? We then did some sun salutations, and, by the way, shouldn’t sun salutations always be done in the sun?

A girl in homeostasis

I plan on lessons about the other laws of emotional intelligence, as well. Truly, they help us be better, more mature, more patient, more conscious–some may even say more moral–individuals.

Amber studies the age-related stages children go through: those times children “act up” but then grow. Send your friends and family to The Observant Mom and check out her book series, Misbehavior is Growth.

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