Yes, children are small. But they have big emotions.
Actually, all human beings have big emotions. Our emotions are wired into the base of our brains. They are there, whether we want them or not. They are what motivate us to marry, choose a career, make a friend, or even buy a dress.
But they can also be a force to contend with. Our emotions can also motivate us to yell at our spouse, quit a job without forethought, or hurt someone we love.
To be successful in life, we must have our emotions; yet we also must be able to manage them. Studies show that “Emotional Intelligence,” which is the ability to recognize, express, and manage our own emotions in relationships, is a greater contributor to adult success than intellectual intelligence. This is why it is so very important to teach your children emotional skills while you are raising them.
Here are Four Tips to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children:
1. Emotion hides behind behavior. Instead of responding to your child’s behavior, first try to determine the emotions that caused it. A child’s behavior is driven by his emotion. If behavior is the car, emotion is the engine. We easily see the car, and everything it does. But in order to see the engine, we have to lift the hood and look. Talk to your child often about what he is feeling. Ask questions, suggest emotion words. Talk about your own emotions.
2. Pay attention. Your job is to see your child’s true nature. What does your child like, dislike, get angry about, feel afraid of, or struggle with? Feed these observations back to your child in a non-judgmental way so that your child can see herself through your eyes, and so that she can feel how well you know her. This will increase your bond with her, and also help her to know her own true self.
3. Feel an emotional connection to your child. Strive to feel what your child is feeling, whether you agree with it or not. When you feel your child’s emotion, he will feel an instant bond with you.
4. Respond competently to your child’s emotional need. Do not judge your child’s feeling as right or wrong. Look beyond the feeling, to the source. Help your child name her emotion. Help her manage the emotion. Give her simple, age-appropriate rules to live by.
These tips may sound easier to carry than they are. Since we adults are also emotional beings, we are required to manage our own emotions, often in the heat of the moment, before we can respond to our children’s feelings in a healthy, appropriate way.
So my Extra Bonus Tip #5 is:
5. First increase your own Emotional Intelligence. The better you are at identifying, accepting, verbalizing, and managing your own feelings, the better you will be at responding to your child’s feelings. Also, your child will learn by watching you. Children are like little sponges. They absorb everything that is around them. They will naturally absorb your emotional skills, and those skills will become their own: a healthy, strong piece of you that they will carry with them all of their lives.