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Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

Every morning I stand on the steps of our home, sipping my coffee, and watch my 12-year-old walk to the bus stop in the dark.  This morning as I watched her, I was suddenly more aware than ever that my baby girl is growing up…and fast.  She stands 5’8” tall and will most likely surpass me in height.  So, her height always makes her appear older than she is and as she made her way to the bus stop, her silhouette was illuminated by the street light and I felt as though I was going to blink, and she was going to be walking away from me to start the journey we call life.  And I panicked for a moment…is she ready, have I raised her with the tools she needs to succeed, have I been a good mother, have I prepared her mind, body and soul to take on the challenges that we are constantly presented with in life, will she be a self-sufficient, god-fearing woman?

It’s terrifying at times to think that as parents we have the greatest impact on our children’s lives.  But then I took a deep breathe and felt confident.  Not confident that I am doing everything right as a parent, because I know I am not.  I have my faults…don’t we all, but confident because I am giving it my all and being an intentional parent and giving her my random “life talks” that she loves so much (enter sarcasm).  Every parent is different in what they want their children to grow up armed with, but I think there are three things that are most imperative to raising a self-sufficient, kind and happy child with strong morals.  The three areas I focus on as a parent are faith, emotional intelligence and a strong work ethic. 

Today, however, I am going to focus on emotional intelligence.  I have studied emotional intelligence for years and I truly believe, next to faith, strong emotional intelligence is the foundation for a life of health and happiness.

Let me start by explaining what emotional intelligence is.  Emotional intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal.

One doctor that I have turned to in my research is Dr. John Gottman.  His research shows that emotional awareness and the ability to manage feelings will determine how successful and happy our children are throughout life, even more than their IQ.

Below are three do’s for building your child’s emotional intelligence, according to Dr. John Gottman.

1.     Do recognize negative emotions as an opportunity to connect.  Use your child’s negative emotions as an opportunity to connect, heal, and grow.  Children have a hard time controlling their emotions.  Stay compassionate, loving, and kind.  Communicate empathy and understanding so that your children can begin to piece together their heightened emotional state.

2.     Do help your child label their emotions.  Help your child put words and meaning ot how they’re feeling.  Once children can appropriately recognize and label their emotions, they’re more apt to regulating themselves without feeling overwhelmed.

3.     Do set limits and problem-solve.  Help them find ways of responding differently in the future.  Enlist their help in seeking alternative solutions to their struggles.  Kids yearn for autonomy, and this is a great way to teach them that they are capable of self-regulating themselves in a world that seems unfair and particularly upsetting.  Remind them that all emotions are acceptable, but all behaviors are not. 

Being a parent is a challenging and never-ending job.  With these three small steps, you can raise children who are bright, self-confident, and better able to navigate the intricacies of life with ease and confidence.  And raising emotionally intelligent children can’t happen until we, as parents, understand emotional intelligence.  If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to begin understanding EI and my favorite doctor and author of EI is Dr. Travis Bradberry.  Here are a few links that I encourage you to spend a little time on.


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