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Effective parenting involves helping children process life.
As our children mature, we have the privilege of walking them through the ups and downs of each developmental stage.
From the full limb-flailing floor tantrum in the supermarket to the tears shed after a playmate’s harsh words—we see how much emotions impact their daily life and behavior.
If we feel lost for words when we see the meltdown unfold before us, imagine how our children feel.
A big part of helping our kids navigate life is accomplished by giving them the tools they need to grow in their emotional development and understanding.
As parents, we need to build their emotional intelligence.
Help your child put their emotions into language.
Kids need to learn how to relate to and deal with their emotions.
Emotions shouldn’t lead, but they need to be openly talked about so kids can begin to identify how they are feeling with words.
An easy way to do this is by asking specific questions.
Start with, “How are you feeling?”
But don’t leave it there.
Be more specific by labeling the emotion you think your child is experiencing. “Are you mad?” “Are you sad?” “Do you feel nervous, or scared?”
Taking time to investigate your child’s emotional responses through questions will help validate the emotion, as well as give language to it.
When the emotion is negative—don’t shy away from it.
The more you allow your children to vocalize and label their frustration at failures or hurt feelings from friends, the more you help them relate to the emotion and put it into perspective.
Kids need help learning to relate to their emotions—the good ones and the bad ones.
Give them space to do so.
Model empathy to others and let your children see it.
One of the best ways to learn empathy is through example. Your kids should see you act with genuine kindness to those around you.
When you are frustrated by the long line at the checkout counter or the sales clerk’s lack of competence—remember that you reap what you sow. Set a good example for your kids in the area of self-regulation and empathy.
It is also important that you help children actively try to see another person’s point of view.
This does not come naturally to kids—especially when emotions are heated.
When your child is upset, have them take a few deep breathes and engage their left brain thinking by asking questions like the ones below.
“What are you upset about?” Validate the feeling and then ask, “How do you think your friend felt when you said…?” “How do you think your teacher felt when you did…?”
It may take awhile for them to answer. That’s okay. Don’t shy away from helping them craft responses to the question. The point of the questioning to help them see that other people have feelings too.
When you see you child showing compassion or empathy to someone—celebrate it. Make a big deal of the positive, and praise their effort.
Showing that empathy is something you value through praise and celebration will incentivize your child to replicate it.
Helping kids see from another perspective is a vital life skill for success in the long haul, not just the first few elementary school years. It is never too early to start.
You may be thinking, what about when my child is the one who is hurt?
As parents, it is in our DNA to want to protect our children from pain. We don’t want them to experience negative emotions, so with an instinctual knee-jerk reaction to shield them—we miss our actual job description.
Our job as parents is to equip them for success.
Every life involves pain and negative emotions. The way to equip our children for success is by teaching them how to process those inevitable hurdles.
Let’s talk about peer pressure for a moment.
We need to help our kids identify the signs of bullying and give them tools for addressing it when they see it happening.
Because there is often shame tied to the issue of bullying, coaching your kids in and out of season is crucial.
There are many helpful articles and websites dedicated to preventing bullying. I won’t go in depth here—but I do want to mention the importance of emotional intelligence as it relates to the topic.
Children who are able to identify, know how to relate to, and can vocalize their emotions will be better equipped to ask for help when they experience or witness kids treating kids cruelly.
Our tendency to overprotect our children leaves them ill-equipped to function well in the classroom or on the playground.
Later, it has the potential to set them up for unrealistic expectations or unhealthy boundaries in relationships and the workplace.
It is a given that we don’t want to see our children hurt.
That won’t, nor should it, change.
It is important, however, that we frame those moments as an opportunity to not only comfort our kids but teach them how to persevere and grow in resiliency and empathy as a part of the process.
That leads me to my last point.
A focus on emotional intelligence, learning more about it and how to build it in our children, ultimately leads to an increased development of their self-esteem.
One way you can start the process is by consistently giving them feedback—honest feedback.
Parents can take feedback to two extremes.
One extreme would be commenting only on what needs to be improved. This can be defeating and deflating to a child’s self-esteem.
The other extreme would only to give feedback on the things a child is doing well.
This is problematic because it does not normalize failure or help the child see that they can push through difficulties and grow.
Help build your child’s motivation, self-regulation, and resiliency by giving them balanced feedback.
Praise the wins and effort—but don’t be afraid to correct and coach when it is called for.
Self-esteem is rooted and developed when children meet a challenge and grow through it.
Showing your child the opportunities to improve a skill, or redirect a decision, is giving them an opportunity to build their self-esteem.
It is never too early or too late to develop emotional Intelligence—but as with most things, the earlier you start… the more of an advantage you have.
Building a child’s emotional intelligence needs to be a part of every parent’s perspective. EQ gives language and a framework for healthy development.
Take the time as a parent to learn the five components of emotional intelligence and then find creative ways to bring them into your daily interactions with your kids.You won’t regret it.
Emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, is an essential quality of effective leaders, employees, and people.
But, how do you practically go about increasing awareness of both yourself and your surroundings?
We’ve created our free guide entitled, “10 Things You Can Do Today To Increase Emotional Intelligence” to help you begin to learn how to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and leverage this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Download it here.