I told him he was grounded from the computer and he yelled, “You’re the meanest mom in the whole world!”
We’ve all heard it, the mean words and the angry stomps and the complete and total breakdown that follows implementing discipline or making decisions our kids don’t like. Our kids don’t always know how to express what they’re feeling in a way that is helpful or constructive.
Shoot! Half the time, I don’t know how to express my own emotions in a way that is helpful or constructive! That’s why it’s important that we –as parents – learn emotional intelligence and then we teach it to our kids.
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What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is a phrase originally coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey in a scholarly research article, but the phrase was really made popular by the book Emotional Intelligence written by Daniel Goleman. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others (1). It can also be defined as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict (2).
Emotional Intelligence Starts with Adults
We can only teach what we know. If we, as the parents, aren’t emotionally self-aware, then how can we possibly help our children navigate their own emotions and concerns? Actively working on identifying our own emotions is the first step to teaching emotional intelligence. When we can identify what we are feeling, then we can learn to respond to how we feel rather than simply reacting to our emotional impulses. If we’ve identified our own emotions, then we can also communicate how we feel to others. We can learn to communicate in a way that brings resolution to tense situations rather than simply escalating a negative encounter.
Why Do We Need Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence Brings Self-Awareness
If we can identify our feelings, then we can learn to be self-aware, understanding that certain situations or words can trigger feelings that we’ve buried rather than addressing. Teaching your child emotional intelligence can help them avoid burying feelings and thus eliminating the work of dealing with triggers. When we identify how WE feel in a situation, it allows us to look past our feelings to the feelings of others and identify how THEY are feelings. We can move past our own anger, hurt or fear and address the emotions of our children. We can help them identify how they are feeling in a situation, and work through those feelings to find a solution that brings peace and reconciliation.
Emotional Intelligence Helps Us Learn to Communicate
Identifying emotions is the first step. Learning to communicate those emotions is the second step. If we can know how we feel, then we can find the words to share how we feel. We can rationally step back from a situation and choose words that are meaningful rather than just hurtful or reactive. We can get to the heart of the matter – OUR hearts – and share what’s going on inside of us in a way that is honest and truthful and helps others understand what we’re going through.
Emotional Intelligence Helps Establish Trust
We only share our emotions with those we trust. If we feel that someone is going to belittle or ignore how we feel, we won’t share. But if we feel that our emotions will be validated, that someone cares about how we feel, then we’re able to be honest and trust others with our emotions. We have the opportunity as the parent to teach our children we are trustworthy, that no matter how they’re feeling, they can come to us. We do that by first becoming emotionally intelligent ourselves, and then teaching our children to be emotionally intelligent as well.
Emotional Intelligence Helps Defuse Negative Situations
Why do bad situations turn worse? Because we start to get angry, and rather than recognizing that anger and calming down, we just turn up the yelling and the rage and and we use hurtful words to turn the situation into Chernobyl where everyone is burned and scarred by the interaction.
But if we start to recognize how we feel, then we can calm ourselves down and engage rationally, rather than emotionally. We can identify how our children feel in an argument, and we can help them identify and address those emotions in order to move forward toward a mutual resolution. Our kids might not like the resolution we choose, especially when discipline is involved, but they’ll feel loved and safe and understood at the end of the conversation, and so will you.
Emotional Intelligence Helps us Express Positive Emotions
Sometimes we need to hear our kids love us. Sometimes we need to know that kids are having a great day, or they feel loved, or they are enjoying an activity. Developing emotional intelligence not only helps us identify negative emotions, but positive ones too. We can share that we’re having a great day, that we feel peaceful, that we’re thankful the kids behaved today instead of being raving lunatics! Emotional intelligence gives us the ability to share positive words and affirm the love between adults and children. If we can be an example of how to express positive emotions, our kids will copy us and express their positive emotions too.
Emotional Intelligence Helps us with Self-Control
I think the most valuable effect of developing emotional intelligence is that it helps us with self-control. There are many times that my kids have smarted off, been disrespectful, or yelled hurtful words at me that made my blood boil. Rather than responding in anger and being hurtful right back, I’m able to identify my anger, identify why the child is being disrespectful or mean, and then address the emotional root of the situation with them rather than responding to the words that were an effect of the emotion. Emotional intelligence helps me behave rationally, rather than emotionally, and it keeps my own emotions in check in the middle of an argument or disagreement. Having self-control is important in so many areas of life, and it’s our job as parents to model and teach our children self-control.
Emotional Intelligence is so important for everyone to learn, both parents and children. It can affect every part of our lives and it absolutely makes an impact on every relationship we have. As you’ve seen, emotional intelligence can help us parent better and teach our children to engage in relationships in a more healthy way. If you’d like to explore the topic further, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman are excellent places to start.
Are there other areas you can think of that emotional intelligence would impact? Do you agree that emotional intelligence is important? I’d love to hear your thoughts so drop a comment below and let’s continue the discussion.
All the best,
- Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/emotional-intelligence
- Help Guide – Improving Emotional Intelligence https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm