We all want our kids to do well in school. We want them to get good grades and go to college and get good jobs. We want our kids to be smart, right?
Not me. I don’t want that.
Okay, that’s not true. Of course I want my kids to be intelligent. But that’s not everything to me. I want my kids to be emotionally intelligent.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The idea of Emotional Intelligence was made popular by John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey in their influential 1990 article “Emotional intelligence” in Imagination, Cognition and Personality. They define Emotional Intelligence as, “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Emotionally intelligent people, according to Mayer, possess the following characteristics:
- Better at perceiving, using, understanding and managing emotions
- Generally more agreeable and open
- Less likely to engage in risky behaviors
- More likely to have positive social experiences
When it comes to my kids, I want them to be successful — but not in the traditional sense. Success to me doesn’t come in the form of a glowing report card or a star position on the star baseball team. Success to me comes in the form of treating others respectfully, showing empathy, bouncing back from disappointment, making smart choices and having confidence in themselves.
I believe that raising my kids with emotional intelligence is the road to achieving those successes — and then some…
“Children whose parents consistently practice Emotion Coaching [those who provide their children with emotional guidance] have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents don’t offer such guidance,” according to John Gottman, Ph. D and author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. He adds, “These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems, and are less prone to acts of violence.”
The way I see it, the emotional component is like the foundation of a house. Build a solid foundation and the rest of the house will stand tall and strong.
Here’s how I do it:
- Become aware of my child’s emotion
- Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
- Listen empathetically, validating his feelings
- Help him find words to label the emotion he is having
- Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand
These are Gottman’s strategies. I read them years ago and I’ve been putting them into practice ever since. Sometimes I’m better at it than others. Sometimes, I downright suck at it. But I try. Generally speaking, I believe I am making progress in raising emotionally intelligent children. I believe I am setting them up for more well-rounded successes in life.
As they grow, I will not be hyper focused on their grades. But I will be hyper focused on how they handle life’s various demands. At the end of the day, it’s their emotional health that will set the stage for a happy life.
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