Of all the gifts you can give your children, emotional intelligence is probably the most valuable.
For decades, it was believed that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was the primary factor in the ability to be successful in life. Now, thanks to lots of research, we know differently.
Emotional Intelligence (also known as EQ) is more important to life satisfaction and success than IQ.
Here are 3 things parents with emotionally intelligent kids do differently.
1. Know that your child’s behavior is driven by his feelings.
So the best way to teach her to behave is to help her learn how to manage her emotions.
2. Set a personal goal to notice your child’s feelings regularly.
This step alone is enormously important.
3. Never judge your child for having feelings.
Accept his feelings, and then step in to help him name it, understand why he is having it, and manage it.
What exactly is emotional intelligence?
1. Being well-equipped to manage complex interpersonal experiences.
Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. defines it as the ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. If you have high emotional intelligence, you can recognize your feelings when you have them and understand what they mean. You can read what others are feeling and respond to them appropriately.
2. Effects on success and leadership skills
The importance of emotional intelligence to life success has been established in study after study over the last 15 years. Research has shown that students who receive training in emotional intelligence at school try harder in classes, have better self-awareness and self-confidence, and manage their stress better in school.
Not only that, adults with high levels of emotional intelligence are more effective and successful in leadership positions.
3. Teaching Emotional Intelligence instead of behavioral
Despite their incredible value, these skills are not in the minds of most parents as they raise children.
Parents want to teach their children how to behave, but they are probably not thinking about teaching them how to handle their emotions.
But this must change. Fortunately, although a parent may have difficulties helping his child understand complex math or chemistry concepts, all parents can help their children develop emotional intelligence.
Before stepping into action, consider this scenario.
As Marcy stood chatting with another mom at their daughter’s soccer game, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that her 10-year-old daughter, Halley, was playing very aggressively. She was kicking the ball in a too-hard, undirected and out-of-control fashion. As she watched, she saw Halley kick so hard that she missed the ball altogether and then sit down on the field in tears.
Marcy walked over to meet Halley on the sideline, where the coach sent her to cool down. “What’s going on Halley?” she asked her daughter. (This question tells Halley that her feelings are visible and important.)
“I hate soccer, and I don’t want to play ever again,” Halley exclaimed with disgust.
“What’s making you so angry right now, Hon?” (Marcy has named the feeling for her daughter).
“Sophia and Katy were ganging up on me before practice, and they’re still doing it on the field. I hate those two,” Marcy explains, breaking into tears now.
“Aw, Halley, it always hurts so much to get ganged up on. No one likes that!” (Here, Marcy has validated Halley’s feelings as understandable while also establishing her painful experience happens to other people.)
“You can handle this, Halley. I know you’re hurt, but you can put that aside for now and finish the game. Then, we’ll talk about what to do about Sophia and Katy on the way home, OK?” Putting her hand in the air for their trademark “pinky high-five,” Marcy says. “You’re strong, and you got this.” Halley does the high-five with her mom and nods her head reluctantly. (Here, Marcy has shown Halley her feelings can be managed and how to do it.)
Years from now, at age 26, Halley will benefit from this exact experience. She will feel excluded at work right before a meeting in which she has to present an important project. She will notice she’s angry and will realize her feelings matter. She will take a moment to identify the reason. (She feels excluded)
Armed with this self-awareness of what she feels and why, she will now use the emotion management skills her mother taught her.
She will say to herself, “I will think this through later. Right now I need to focus on this presentation.” With that, Halley will put a smile on her face and walk into the meeting looking composed and confident.
Marcy could have handled the soccer situation very differently. She might have walked over to Halley and said any of these things that any parent might say:
Pull it together, Kiddo, and get back out there.
This kind of behavior will get you kicked off the team!
What the heck is the problem?
You’re annoying the coach!
If you’re not going to play the game right, we might as well go home.
None of these responses from a parent would be horrific or unreasonable, but all would ignore the importance of the child’s feelings (the definition of Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN). And all would miss an opportunity to teach the child emotional intelligence.
As a parent, you don’t have to be perfect at this to help raise your kids with emotional intelligence. You only have to be willing to try.
Every time you notice, respond to and validate your child’s emotions, you give them the skills for a lifetime — skills for confidence, connection, success, and motivation — and possibly the most loving gift ever.
Jonice Webb, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and best-selling author of two self-help books. She specializes in childhood emotional neglect, relationships, communication issues, and mental health. Dr. Webb has appeared on CBS News and NPR, and her work has been cited by many publications.