Sheryl Roberts, MA, LPCC
Emotional Intelligence. This might be a concept you are hearing more and more about these days. Many are talking about the importance of emotional intelligence in schools, in the work place and in homes. But what is emotional intelligence and how can we teach it to our children.
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of one’s own emotions in addition to being able to control and express one’s emotions appropriately and to be able to interact with others judiciously and empathetically.
So what does that mean for parents and teachers of children? This quality manifests itself in being aware of your child’s different emotional states, empathizing with their emotions, and finally soothing and guiding them through their emotions. As children learn emotional intelligence from the adults around them, they will be better able to control their impulses, delay gratification, motivate themselves, and read other people’s emotional and social cues and finally, be able to cope with life’s curveballs with confidence and control.
So how do we become competent emotion-coaching parents? Well, let’s first look at the three types of non-coaching parental styles. These are the styles to avoid! The first is the dismissing parent. The dismissing parent disregards, ignores or trivializes their children’s negative emotional states. The second is the disapproving parent. The disapproving parent is critical of their children’s display of negative emotions and may punish them for having them. The third is the laissez-faire parent. This parent may accept the child’s emotions and even empathize with them, but they fail to offer guidance or set limits on their children’s behavior as they experience their negative emotional states.
So how can you develop the art of becoming your child’s emotional coach? The process can happen in five steps. First, you become aware of your child’s different emotional states. Second, you recognize the emotional states as an opportunity for intimacy with your child and an open door for teaching emotional intelligence. Third, you stop what you are doing and listen empathetically with full presence (body, soul, mind and strength) to your child’s feelings, validating them as they are expressed. Fourth, you may help your child find the right words to label the emotions he is having. Here is a good list of emotions that you and your child may use to identify what they are feeling List of Emotions. Finally, you must set limits on their behaviors while you both explore strategies to solve the problem at hand.
Sound easy? It is not! Developing emotional intelligence in our children means we ourselves must also be emotional intelligent. This might be a new idea to many parents. Be comforted, it is a lifelong skill that can be learned at any age.
How can you start to become more emotionally intelligent yourself? First, is to replace your child’s name in the above steps with your own. These steps used with yourself become a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an ancient practice in the church and should not be feared by Catholics. In our agency, Mount Tabor Counseling, we use a form of Catholic Mindfulness which brings much healing to our clients. I will be writing about Catholic Mindfulness in future posts.
For now, make it a goal to learn more about your own emotional intelligence and become an emotion-coach for your children. If parents at SHJS are interested, our agency, can put on an Emotional Coaching Seminare for parents to attend. Please contact me if you are interested. If we have enough interest, we will set a date.
Meanwhile, lean into empathy with your loved ones and help them understand those hard feelings.
Peace of Jesus,
Gottman, John. Raising an emotionally intelligent child. Simon & Schuster, 1997.