5 Ways To Raise An Emotionally Intelligent Child
What I’ve come to realise of late is that my son, who is rapidly approaching 7 years old, is a far more emotionally intelligent child than those of his peers – who are in fact older than him. While this sounds like the typical parent-like “oh my kid is just so awesome” it’s actually not.
My kid has flaws, he is a handful and he is far from perfect. I don’t believe in the perfect child. He is however far wiser than his age. The issue we have though is teaching him how to control his “big” emotions when his young brain cannot handle them. This is teaching emotional intelligence and it is one of the most important life lessons for children.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is a social awareness of one’s emotions and the ability to control and self regulate those emotions. An emotionally intelligent child is one who are able to calm themselves more quickly and can label their emotions, which in turn assists them in controlling them.
When it comes to my son, I have begun to notice this a lot lately when watching him around his friends. I am a people watcher, I like to sit back and analyse and in doing so have discovered a difference in my child. While his friends seem to process things as a child of 7, my son appears to have a deeper understanding of life, death, consequences, friendships, relationships and the like.
Whether it is because both his father and I are very realistic parents, choosing to teach our kids about topics most parents shy away from. Or perhaps it is just his brain is more developed, I can’t say. But it is something that comes with a small price, my son has anxiety. I put this down to his brain processing emotions far deeper than those around him, leaving him confused and sometimes angry and frustrated.
Helping Your Child Express Feelings And Control Them
What I have learnt over time, is to not dismiss my child’s feelings when he is frustrated or angry. But to talk to him, explain things to him and help him understand. My hubby and I have always spoken to our children as though they are adults, not children. We teach them things despite knowing it is complicated or beyond their years. In turn, we have discovered that our children have a more developed language and understanding.
At times, I agree that speaking to your child rationally when they are having a full-blown emotional meltdown is difficult. This is especially difficult when you are tired and frustrated yourself. In these moments, don’t punish your child for feeling as they are. Tell them they need to remain in a quiet place to calm themselves and that they can come and speak with you when they are ready.
Children are far smarter than what we give them credit for. We often laugh at some of the ridiculously complicated words that come out of our kids mouths. Their explanations of things are sometimes better than what I could explain them. At 5 my son explained a combustion engine and at 4 my daughter explained photosynthesis better than most adults.
It Is Okay To Express Emotions In Front Of Your Child
Recently, I took my children to visit their Nana (my mother) at her resting place. Naturally, I became upset and began to cry. I allowed my children to see my grief because it shows them it’s okay to be vulnerable at times. It also shows them how much someone meant to me. Despite having never met their Nana, they talk about her frequently. They tell me they love her and blow kisses to her photograph before bed.
My children, 4 and near 7, put their arms around me and said “it’s okay mommy, Nana Caroline loves you and knows we all love her.”
After this, the kids asked if we could go for a walk around to look at all the people. We set off, the kids asking me questions about all the trinkets on the people’s graves or photos on their plaques. They asked how they died, what their names were and how old they were. I fed their curiosity as much as I could.
Then we came upon “the garden of angels.” This garden is dedicated to children and babies who had grown their wings. I didn’t want to continue but the kids did. They asked just as many questions, about their toys, their lives, their names. Some of the plaques had photographs on them. The kids were genuinely interested and not at all upset. In fact, I was the one with tears in my eyes. The fact is, the children were perfectly at ease with the acceptance of death. They comprehened how lucky they were to not be like these children and had an understanding the gravity of the loss these families had experienced.
My point is, don’t shield children from things you think are beyond their years – to a degree of course. We don’t allow our children to see all the horrors of the world. But when they see a natural disaster on the news and they ask about it, we explain it. We watch nature documentaries on tornadoes and the deep sea to expand their minds. Explain life after death, trust me they can take it. It feeds their natural curiosity and expands their mind. It also helps to create emotionally intelligent children.
Tips On Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children
From “Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children”, Professor John Gottman, says this:
Be Aware Of Emotions
Even anger has its place if it is expressed constructively. Do not try to be a “super-parent.” Hiding your emotions from your children will, in turn, create children who are less able to handle their negative emotions.
Emotion Is An Opportunity For Intimacy And Teaching
Don’t see your child’s tantrum as misbehaving and something to ignore, see it as an opportunity to teach your child about their emotions. This will help them understand their emotions better and help to raise emotionally intelligent
Listen Empathetically And Validate Feelings
It is important to accept the feelings, not necessarily the behaviour. Listen empathetically, let them vent and tell their version of events but don’t judge. Don’t probe with too many questions and repeat back what they say so they know they’re being heard.
Help Them To Label Their Emotions
Labelling emotions goes hand in hand with empathy. Saying to your child “You feel angry now, don’t you?” validates their feelings and gives them a label for this scary feeling. Studies have indicated that giving an emotion a label has a soothing effect on the nervous system, thus helping your child recover quicker.
Let’s not underestimate the benefits of teaching a child how to self soothe their emotions. Studies have also shown that children who learn to self soothe at a young age are more likely to concentrate better, have better peer relationships, higher academic achievements and better health.
Set Limits & Help Them Problem Solve
After you have acknowledged the emotion, you can address their behaviour. Remember, accepting a child’s emotions does not mean accepting poor behaviour. Once they have calmed, you need to set limits and explain that certain behaviours are not going to be tolerated. But you want to help your child be the one to come up with ideas to fix things, you shouldn’t be the problem solver. This is how an emotionally intelligent child becomes a resourceful, responsible one.
While I attempt to practice these methods, I will admit at times it all goes out the window. Those are the times I’m tired, have a headache, I’m running late and just frankly exhausted. It is difficult to enact all of the steps above when your child has a meltdown in the shopping centre.
So, Gottman has this advice: In an ideal world, we’d always have time to sit and talk with our kids as feelings come up. But for most parents, that’s not always an option. It’s important, therefore, to designate a time—preferably at the same period each day—when you can talk to your child without time pressures or interruptions.
So, you don’t have to do these steps at the time of the meltdown, of course, if you can then do it. However, if you can’t, speaking about it later is better than not discussing it at all.
The information above is from the book “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child – The Heart Of Parenting”Written by Professor John GOTTMAN.
Teaching emotional intelligence is difficult. It requires a lot of patience from parents and a constant awareness of why your child is acting as they do. Children who have tantrums are struggling to express their emotions. It is our job as parents to guide them and teach them on just how to handle these big emotions. By doing this you will raise emotionally intelligent and well adjusted children.
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