Emotional Intelligence (EI) is your ability to manage and understand emotions and relationships, your own as well as others’.
Research has shown that Emotional Intelligence is more vital to life success and satisfaction than general intelligence. This makes EI a very important skill for parents to teach their children.
The good news: Children automatically learn EI when they are raised by parents who have it themselves. Parents with EI are able to understand what their child is feeling and why. Their emotionally attuned responses to the child model and teach him how to read, understand, and respond to his own and others’ feelings in a healthy way.
The bad news: A parent who struggles with EI himself may lack the skills necessary to be able to teach them to his child. In other words, you can’t teach your child what you don’t know. This is why low EI is self-perpetuating through generations of families.
One way to make sure that you do not teach your child about emotion is to simply ignore his emotions while you are raising him (Childhood Emotional Neglect). If you seem not to notice that your child is upset, sad, angry, hurt or anxious, you are subtly telling him that his sadness, anger, pain or anxiety don’t matter. You are teaching him to ignore his own feelings.
Emotionally neglected children grow up to experience a variety of challenges, only one of which is low Emotional Intelligence. As adults, these children also struggle with excessive guilt and self-blame, feelings of emptiness, and a general lack of joy in life.
No loving parent wants to set her child up for that scenario. But parenting is probably the most complicated job in the world. In fact, it is built into the natural process of parenting that even the most loving parents will pass our own strengths and weaknesses on to our children. Often, the only way to stop that cycle is to consciously make the effort to override it.
Three Parenting Tips to Maximize Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence
- Pay attention. Work hard 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.
Life Advantage: Your child will see herself reflected in your eyes, and she will know who she is. This will give her confidence in her life choices and will make her resilient to life’s challenges.
- Feel an emotional connection to your child. Strive to feel what your child is feeling (empathy), whether you agree with it or not. When you feel your child’s emotion, he will feel an instant bond with you.
Life Advantage: Your child will learn empathy and will have healthier relationships throughout his life.
- 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.
Life Advantage: Your child will have a healthy relationship with his own emotions. He will naturally know that his feelings are important and how to put them into words and manage them.
No parent can follow these tips perfectly, of course. This is not about perfection; it’s about making the effort. Effort in itself shows love and care. When your child sees you trying to understand his feelings or feel his feelings, whether you succeed or not, he receives a powerful message:
Your feelings matter to me.
And what your child will hear: