Raising emotionally intelligent kids means doing certain things to make your child feel safe enough to express his or her emotions. It means understanding that children’s emotions influence their behavior, and that teaching them to manage big emotions has an impact on their social, academic and psychological well-being in the childhood years and beyond.
Here are five things emotionally intelligent parents don’t do.
Emotionally intelligent parents do not hide their emotions.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to teach your child about emotions is by letting her see how you manage your strong emotions. We now know that how we react to our emotions influences how our children learn to react to their own emotions. Science suggests that anxious parents are more likely to pass on their anxiety to their children. In other words, highly anxious parents are more likely to raise children prone to anxiety-related disorders, and this is largely explained by how these parents react to difficult situations.
How you react to emotion-provoking situations teaches your child how to react to those situations. Showing your child that anxiety is a normal emotion that can be managed makes it easier for her to deal with her emotions. Talk to your child about your emotions. Let her see you angry, sad or anxious. Let her know that emotions are normal but better still, show her how you manage those emotions in an appropriate way.
Emotionally intelligent parents do not ignore their child’s triggers.
Emotion-driven behavior in children is often sparked by specific events. Major or even seemingly trivial events can elicit emotional responses from your child. Understanding your child’s triggers makes it easier to manage difficult situations because it is always easier to deal with emotion-driven behavior before it gets out of hand.
An effective way of identifying your child’s triggers is by keeping an emotions diary. By observing your child and noting down when he displays specific behavior, you can easily identify common patterns and adopt an effective strategy to deal more effectively with specific situations.
Emotionally intelligent parents do not take their children’s emotion-driven behavior personally.
While it can be difficult to deal with your child’s tantrums and meltdowns, it helps to remember that your child’s behavior is rarely about you. It is rarely an attempt to undermine your authority. Her behavior often expresses her attempts to deal with strong emotions.
Understanding that your child’s behavior is driven by emotions can make it easier to deal with that behavior. But in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to stop taking that behavior personally. Learning to disconnect mentally or physically for a few moments can help you look at difficult situations more objectively. This might mean adopting specific strategies such as “hitting your pause button,” counting to 10, taking 10 sips of water or briefly leaving the room.
Emotionally intelligent parents do not invalidate their children’s emotions.
There are so many ways children’s emotions are invalidated. Invalidating emotions means teaching kids that their emotions do not count. It means teaching them to feel ashamed when they display certain emotions. Invalidating your child’s emotions teaches him to suppress those emotions, and research has found that suppressing emotions has a negative impact on our ability to form positive relationships.
Regardless of whether you think of them as appropriate or not, all your child’s emotions are acceptable and valid. But that does not mean that all emotion-driven behavior is acceptable.
Emotionally intelligent parents do not shield their children from difficult situations.
Shielding your child from difficult situations prevents her from learning how to deal with difficult emotions. In one study, researchers found that children exposed to conflict were more emotionally intelligent than those who were not. They found that speaking to children about their emotions and those of others helped strengthen their emotional intelligence.
Exposing your child to difficult situations gives her the tools she needs to deal with such situations, but it is important to tread carefully if you are dealing with a highly anxious child. This could mean gradually exposing your child to emotion-provoking situations, accompanying her to difficult events before progressively reducing the time you spend with her at such events, or talking about what to expect when dealing with new situations.
When you show your child that emotions are normal and manageable, she will eventually learn to manage her emotions by herself.