Sometimes, kids are the scariest thing ever. In an instant, they transform from joyful, innocent and sweet mini-yous, to screaming, crying, kicking little creatures, throwing things, punching, breaking stuff with their bare hands. Raising an emotionally intelligent child isn’t for the faint of heart.
It turns out that, to deal with an emotionally intelligent child, your best bet would be to open up about exactly how his tantrums make you feel. And not only. It’s a fact of psychology that talking about feelings can make them lighter and easier to deal with – both for the person experiencing them and for the person who is listening. New studies show that the same principle is the answer to how to raise an emotionally intelligent child.
John Gottman, the author who wrote an incredible book on the subject, says that the EQ of a child, the emotional intelligence, or the emotional IQ (all three are used interchangeably) are incredibly useful to his or her development. If the child understands what exactly his emotions are, he can easily cope with them later on in life.
Aside from teaching your child to respect proper manners and social norms, you must also cater to his or her emotions.
To raise an emotionally intelligent child, John Gottman proposes a set of directives to be followed by parents. He calls these “emotional coaching.” Let’s have a look at what they entail:
1. Kids Need Empathy
One of the first difficulties parents encounter when dealing with their kids is making them listen. Surprisingly though, also one of the first secrets to raising an emotionally intelligent child is, for the parent to listen to the child. This does not mean just blindly following his every whim, but at the very least empathize with the little one.
If the kid complains about something: say you’re spending too much time at your job, don’t try to fight it! It’s the worst thing you can do, and the kid will soon start doubting himself. Although this is harmless in its early stages, it can lead to loss of confidence. Say: “yes, you’re right, I am spending too much time at the office” – this shows your kid that you empathize with his situation. Try to change your schedule, but if you can’t, at least admit that it’s not ideal.
2. Build Their Feeling Baggage
It would be hypocritical to demand that kids know exactly how they feel. Remember that even for you, a fully developed adult, it’s often impossible to tell how you feel. Now remove 50% of your vocabulary. It does seem increasingly harder, doesn’t it?
Your kids are in the same situation. They would often want to express themselves, but they lack the words. And it’s not their fault. It’s normal that they do not know how they are feeling. You have to try to build on this. Teach your kids the meaning of sadness, the meaning of joy, and all the other complicated feelings. I know they are difficult to explain, but try to – as best you can. This will build their emotional vocabulary and eventually help you in raising an emotionally intelligent child.
3. Combine Empathy with Emotion Training
If your kid says “I don’t like this” about his inability to do a practical task or pass a level on a video game, or any other thing he can’t do, it’s a golden opportunity. Never deny his reason to be frustrated. Always acknowledge that indeed, he should be upset. Teach him about frustration with this occasion.
In these cases, your little one may misidentify feelings because of his limited vocabulary. Take advantage of this. Listen, understand, empathize, and explain his feelings to him.
4. Understand his Tantrums
You may find that kids’ tantrums are an impossible equation. However, it’s still best to try and help. If your kid feels high levels of anxiety towards a certain task — say, going to the doctor’s office, or the dentist, or any other scary thing — you might expect an outburst of emotions. Tantrums are hard to deal with, but you may try to give him an example of when you felt the same kind of frustration.
By doing this, you alleviate his feeling of loneliness. He will understand that he is not the center of the world and that everyone feels like this now and then.
5. Never Get Angrier than He Is
You may or may not have experienced a situation in public where a kid is having a tantrum and one or both of his parents end up screaming louder than them. Tsk-Tsk – that is not good parenting. Once you set an example of angriness, the kid will automatically assume that it is ok to scream and make a fuss in public.
Be an example of tranquility. No matter how badly he behaves, stay calm. It’s the best solution, and often, the child will be deterred in his tantrum by the fact that you seem so calm and confident. It’s an age-old trick; try it!