Where my passion for EQ started and why
Hi, I’m a Counsellor / Therapist, an International Speaker, an Award-Winning Author and a Master Trainer and Coach who specialises in Emotional Intelligence (EQ), behaviour and the human mind. I’m also a mom, stepmom, foster mom and grandmother. Years ago, I was also a ‘Place of Safety’ mom for Childline who placed babies and children, who were in danger, with me until they could be moved into foster care.
When I started my own EQ Practise in 2003, working with adults: - executives, corporate companies, schools, government institutions and private individuals, and children from the age of 4 years old, I realised that no matter what age my client was, that they all had similar problems which all stemmed from them not having the skills to deal with their emotions. I also realised that people were scared of their emotions, that they wanted to suppress them, avoid them and ignore them. I showed my clients how to treat their emotions as a language, that their emotions were powerful and that if they treated their emotions as a language, they could learn from them.
I believe, and have witnessed this myself, that when you develop a child’s Emotional Intelligence from a young age, that so many emotional and mental health issues can be prevented. Just like you never forget a language you learnt, when you learn EQ life skills when you are young, you have those skills for life, ready to use them as and when needed. But the wonderful thing about developing Emotional Intelligence is, is that it can be taught at any age from 2 years old right up until 102 years old!
When I was introduced to Emotional Intelligence, the books that were available were very scientific and hard to understand so after I qualified as an EQ Practitioner, I set out to make it simpler so everyone could understand. I also wanted to provide easy-to-use, and fun, resources for teachers and parents to use, as there were none available at the time, so I created ‘The Bears of Blueberry Forest EQ teaching bears’ for children aged 3 – 10.
I’m the author and creator of
- The Relationship Magnet
- Emotional Intelligence in a Nutshell for Parents and Teachers
- An accredited Emotional Intelligence Foundation Course
The Bears of Blueberry Forest EQ Books and Teaching Resources
- Cody’s Birthday Party Anxiety
- Abby and The Gaggle of Geese
- Cody and Michael go Surfing
- Wilson Dares the Dark
- Basil and The Blasters Take on The Weasels
- Molly and The Fabulous Bake-Off
- Santa Crash-lands in Blueberry Forest
- A Colouring Book
- EQ Life Skills Activity Workbook for ages 3 - 10
- EQ Life Skills Curriculum for ages 3 - 10 which includes An A - Z Feeling Dictionary, Emotion Flash Cards, lesson plans and posters
How it all began
I grew up in South Africa and initially I was a very happy-go-lucky child. I was the middle child in between two brothers. I loved swimming and playing outside with my friends and pets. We had a lot of pets; birds, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, chickens and fish, at one time we even had a tortoise. We moved a lot as my parents worked as Pastors / Vicars for a church. Being moved from school to school was hard, as I would just make friends and then we would be moved again. Life was a lot of fun when my parents took us camping or when we got together with our large extended family. But life was also very stressful, especially when my dad enforced the discipline, he thought was effective.
My happy-go-lucky childhood took a turn for the worse at the age of 9 when I got a severe beating from my father, I started being bullied at school by teachers and students and at home by one of my brothers. Also, the religion that my parents belonged to was very strict and very constraining. There were so many rules and regulations. As a consequence of the hidings, the bullying and all the rules at home and at school, I developed severe anxiety. I never felt safe, not at home, nor at school, nowhere! My nervous system was continuously on high alert. I had so many emotions, no one understood them, including me and I had no idea how to express or process them. This led to be becoming a child who was constantly ill as the stress and anxiety played havoc on my immune system.
At the age of 13, after witnessing a young girl close to me being tormented by a parent, I told my mom that I wanted to become a social worker, working with children. She immediately dismissed my idea saying that I was too sensitive to go into a profession like that. At the age of 15 school became too much for me to handle, I was anxious all the time, so my father got permission for me to leave school early. Soon after I started nursing, I loved it. I loved helping people and I loved learning about the human body. About a year later, once again I couldn’t cope with my environment when the constant illness and deaths of patients that I had taken care of got to me, so I left the nursing profession. I started working in a ‘safer’ environment, the classified advertisement department at a newspaper house. I enjoyed working there and for the first time in many years my nervous system was able to relax. It also gave me the opportunity to finish my schooling, which I did via distance learning.
A year after I joined The Newspaper House, I got married and once again found myself in another unsafe environment, this time because of my abusive husband. I was back to living, and being, in a constant state of anxiety and fear, always feeling unsafe. 5.5 Years later, with two small children on my hip, I managed to escape that marriage.
Many more jobs, and unhealthy relationships later, at the age of 34 years I started working for an Incubator that nurtured Entrepreneurs. It was here where I finally found my purpose, my destiny and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Quite a few years before that, I had gone for counselling, and it helped me so much that I had started studying part-time to become a counsellor myself. I was in the last phase of my studies, about to qualify and had started seeing clients at night and on weekends. I loved it! I had been working for the Incubator for about 6 months when my boss got back from a conference that he had attended in the USA and promptly announced that he had found the solution to so many entrepreneurs failing. He said that what entrepreneurs lacked were soft skills, the skills to handle stress and develop resilience. He handed me a book that he had brought back from the USA on Emotional Intelligence written by Daniel Goleman and gave me an instruction to find an Emotional Intelligence Trainer to train the entrepreneurs we worked with. I searched high and low and couldn’t find anyone like that. Whilst my search was going on, I started to read the book myself and was intrigued. It was not an easy read, it was difficult to understand, but it lit a spark within me, I realised that developing Emotional Intelligence was the solution to so many problems that people had, and not just for entrepreneurs.
I continued searching for a Trainer for many months, there was a company in the USA that offered some EQ workshops, but there were none in South Africa. What I did however find, was two more books on Emotional Intelligence written by authors in South Africa. The one book was a workbook written by two doctors and the other by a motivational speaker. I contacted the doctors and asked if they ran training courses, they did not. They told me to just ‘use the workbook’, a book filled with activities. I was flabbergasted, their book was great, and it had been nominated the best available in the world at an EQ conference in the USA at that time, but they didn’t teach anyone how to develop Emotional Intelligence nor how to use their book’s activities. By then I had become a bit obsessed with everything to do with Emotional Intelligence, the more I researched it, the more it lit that flame within me. I contacted the doctors again and asked if they could train me to train EQ seeing as they didn’t want to run courses. Once again, they said no. For some unknown reason, I just couldn’t let it go, I kept asking and eventually they said yes. By the time they said yes, they had received a few more enquiries so they put together South Africa’s first ever Train the Trainer Course. I attended the training along with 4 other participants who were interested in using the knowledge in their private practices. I was the only one who would train the public and had been taught to teach children and adults. I became South Africa’s first ever Commercial Trainer and Coach of Emotional Intelligence in June 2003. It was one of my proudest and happiest moments.
After training the staff at the Incubator I worked at, I left and set up my own private training, counselling and coaching practise. Not only had that training changed my own personal life as I learnt how to deal with my own anxiety and depression, and it had given me the skills to recover from the bullying and abuse I had experienced, it also gave me my life’s purpose and a job that I loved and thrived in.
When I got back from my training, I was so excited about everything I had learnt and immediately started implementing everything at home first, with my children. It was so much fun, they loved learning with me and it changed the dynamics in our little family. I had never believed in physical punishment of children after experiencing the devastating effect it had on me as a child, so my children were brought up without any of that and with a lot of love. But I had not realised up until then, that there is so much more that a child needs. That children need to feel accepted, understood and respected. That their biggest desire is to feel safe to be themselves and be loved for who they are. My parenting style changed to one of cooperative parenting and my children flourished. Like myself, they too had been bullied at school, so we soon worked on that as well, it worked so well, that my children became friends with their bullies! Life at home became more peaceful and more relaxed. A moment I will never forget was when my 15 year old son and I were having a conversation and he looked at me and said ‘Mommy, for the first time in my life, I feel like you understand me.’ That was a big moment in our family as up until then I had had so many sleepless nights wondering and worrying trying to understand them and trying to figure out how to help them to deal with their emotional ups and downs of life.
Not long after I qualified as an EQ Practitioner, the press got news of it, and I started appearing in newspapers. The media wanted to know all about Emotional Intelligence and how it could help people. I was even invited to start writing for a little newspaper called ‘The Ripple Effect.’ I started getting calls from people from all over the country asking me to run training workshops at their companies. I was invited to speak at conventions, I was interviewed on the radio and on Television. It was wonderful as I wanted to get the word out about the incredible life transforming power of developing Emotional Intelligence.
The School System
Besides running public and corporate training courses for adults which included the South African Police Services, Banks, Industrial Companies, Retail Companies and private companies, I had started to get requests from parents to counsel and mentor their children. I initially started working with children on a one-on-one basis and in pairs but then expanded to running holiday camps and groups. I then added parenting groups to the list. I was busy, but I was so fired up about the changes people were experiencing, that it never felt like a job to me. What I found most striking was that it was parents who were the most desperate for help. They had gone down the usual route of taking their children to see a doctor, Psychologist or Psychiatrist but were not seeing a change and a lot of parents refused to medicate their children for behavioural issues, they believed here was something else that needed to be addressed and that medicine was not the answer. They started sending their children to me as a last resort and when they saw how their children’s lives were transformed by learning about themselves and learning how to understand and express themselves, children started being referred to me for EQ classes first before seeking medical help. This yet again let another fire within me when I realised that EQ skills needed to get into the schools, it needed to go to where the children were educated, in mass. It also needed to be taught to the people who were teaching our children. This was however much more difficult than I ever imagined.
There were some private schools that permitted me to run some private lessons at night to their staff and some of the parents that were interested, but the government schools just did not have the capacity, the budget or the time to include it into the Education Department prescribed curriculum's. A few months before this, I had enlisted the help of my brother (the brother who had been the bully). By developing his own Emotional Intelligence, he had completely turned his life around too and he had also become involved in training. I needed an additional trainer for some of my projects, so I had trained him up to help me. We started going from school to school to introduce EQ, handing out pamphlets and answering questions, it was exhausting and disheartening. There was just too much red tape to get it into the school system. I eventually gave up on trying to get EQ into the schools and decided to turn my focus elsewhere.
While I was working with the children in my practice, I realised that so few resources were available for me to send home with the children, for them and for their parents. So instead of writing endless notes, I decided to write a book for parents called ‘Emotional Intelligence in a Nutshell for Parents and Teachers’. It was a hit, parents loved the simplicity of the book - easy to read, easy to understand and easy to implement. I discovered that I really liked writing and creating resources so soon afterwards I started writing books for children. Initially I started writing stories about my own two blond haired children but because I wanted to reach all children, no matter what they looked like and where they came from, I decided to write stories about the most loved toy in the world instead, teddy bears. And so, The Bears of Blueberry Forest EQ Stories and Resources were born.
As I couldn’t get EQ into the school system, I turned to the next best thing – Tutors. I created a Foundational Course on Emotional Intelligence and started teaching Tutors. As I wanted to reach more people to help more children, I turned the course into an online course. The only next step was to have my course accredited, which was impossible at first as there was no benchmark for Emotional Intelligence courses. Eventually, I found an accreditation body which was the closest to being qualified and in November 2020 my Emotional Intelligence Foundation Course received it’s accreditation. Accreditation for the EQ curriculum for children aged 3 - 10 years old, is currently being finalised as well.
After qualifying in EQ, I developed a hunger for more knowledge, I wanted to know how, and why, human beings do what they do so I continued my studies over the years. I studied Nutrition and the Immune System, PNI, NLP, Mind Power, Reiki, Inner Child Healing, Colour Therapy, Personality Assessments, Brain Profiling and EFT. I even studied literacy, TEFL and became a Fire Walking Instructor.
Family and Leisure Time
Today my life is vastly different to when I started out on this journey. I moved to the UK and am happily married and have been for 12 years. My children are all grown up, are married and have their own children. And I gained two stepsons who are just like my own. They too are in relationships and have children of their own. I love spending time with our big, blended family. The children and grandchildren all get on and we regularly get together as we truly love spending time together. We have also been on holiday together a few times and plan to go on many more in the future. My husband and I love traveling, we return to South Africa regularly and love exploring new countries with our beloved dog Leo. Personally I still love learning. I never stop reading and listening to audio books, I love it! I also love swimming, dancing, walking on the beach, enjoying fine foods and wine and watching movies and TV.
The Best Thing About Being Introduced to, and becoming, EQ
I have to say that the best thing about becoming EQ is how it transformed my family. Unfortunately, by the time I got into this field, my mom had passed away from cancer. In her last years she had become very interested in learning about the different personalities so I know she would have loved learning about all of this. My dad was intrigued and soon wanted to know more. He had a huge awakening when we were able to talk openly about how his parenting had affected my, and my brothers’ lives. He felt so terrible, but I knew that he was doing the best he could with what he knew at the time. We were able to forgive and heal. He was so moved by everything he learnt that he started teaching the parents, especially the dads, in his church about it encouraging them to change their parenting styles. My brother and I were able to talk and heal from the bullying that had taken place. What was even more miraculous was that I was able to have an open conversation with my ex-husband who had been violent and abusive. Because of my studies, I had learnt that he too was just ‘a product of his environment’ and we were able to talk openly, to heal, to forgive and to let go. He too is a completely different person today because of Emotional Intelligence. We still talk on a regular basis. What I love most, is that I became the parent, the grandparent, the wife and the person, that I always wanted to be. Fun, playful, gentle, wise, at ease, at peace, and in flow with life and the world. EQuipped to cope and thrive in a life that has its ups and downs. Thankfully now there are way more ups than there are downs.
My favourite schooling system in the world is the Finnish way of teaching. They focus on life-long learning, inclusion and model their classes according to the children’s needs. They also give children a lot of free time as they understand that children learn in many different ways. My biggest desire is that all schools around the world, will take a look at what is working, and what isn’t and change it up. Most schools are still using the same teaching methods they used hundreds of years ago. It needs a total revamp to meet children’s needs. We only need to take a look at the extraordinary amount of Mental Health Issues, bullying and suicides to realise that what, and how, we are teaching children, is simply not working.
Parents and Role Modelling
The post important message that I can give to parents is that your children learn more from who you and what you do than from what you say. Becoming EQ is about showing them how to do it, having fun and integrating the skills into everyday life. I teach EQ to my grandchildren in so many fun ways, while we are making gingerbread men, in the car, while playing mini golf, during swimming, while they are bathing, watching movies, etc. There are so many ways and opportunities that can be turned into a learning moment. Learning is so much more effective and rememberable when it is fun. When you try and get a child to cram knowledge into their brains with continuous repetition and using a parrot-style teaching method, it creates stress, it’s not conducive to learning as it shuts a child down. When you integrate learning into living, it opens a child’s mind and their heart. Parenting is the hardest, and most important, job in the whole wide world. You are raising an adult, the next generation, and it’s always good to remember to ask yourself, what sort of woman or man would you like your child to become. What sort of values would you like them to have, how would you like them to treat other people, and most importantly how would you like them to feel about themselves. Often parents focus so much on making sure that their children get good grades and preparing them for a great career, that they forget that preparing them for life is so much more important. All good parents want their children to be happy; good grades and a great career is not going to give them that, it’s only a small part of it. What will make your child feel happy, is the way they feel about themselves, knowing that it’s okay to be themselves, having great self-esteem, feeling loved and accepted, being confident within themselves and how they contribute to the world. Most of all, what makes a child happy is when you are happy with them, when they can look you in the eyes and feel safe, loved and accepted for who they are, just as they are.