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How to develop Emotionally Intelligent Children

Feelings and emotions play a massive role in the life and development of our children from the moment they are born and all through their life. Unfortunately, this aspect has been ignored for too long especially in our part of the world.

If a toddler throws a tantrum, it is directly associated with discipline. We often blame ourselves as parents for raising them wrong or have people judge us for spoiling them too much and not disciplining them well. If a preschooler acts aggressively, we punish them without making an effort to know why this act has been initiated in the first place. We are too focused on raising children that the society approves of that we often forget their basic needs, perceptions, and inner battles.

shutterstock_559670752.jpg“In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.”
–John Gottman,  Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

I admit that sometimes when I see my elder daughter hitting her younger brother, I lose it and punish her without realizing that she was jealous or mad at that moment and could not find the right words to say. On the other hand, when my toddler, who does not communicate well yet, hits us when he tries to ask for something that he cannot express so he always resorts to hitting, leaving us mad and crazy as to  why he is so aggressive.

So I decided to focus on their emotions and help them, at least my daughter for now, to express what she wants in clear words, which on the longer run will be good news for both parties because it not only promotes healthy development, it also means less tantrums, less power struggles, and less whining.

How?

  • Being able to identify and talk about one’s own feelings
    • “I so happy!”
    • “I am MAD at you!”
    • “I’m sad.”
  • Understanding that feelings direct thoughts and behaviors:
    • “When I’m sad, I cry”
    • “When I’m happy, I  laugh”
    • “When I’m angry, I sometimes want to hit”
  • Working on the ability to control or redirect feelings (this takes time and practice):
    •  “When I’m angry I may want to hit, BUT hitting is not ok so I will stomp my feet and say I am angry instead”
    • “I am frustrated right now and I am going to go calm down so I don’t spit at you”
  • Learning how to get along with friends
    • “I feel happy to play with …”
    • “I feel upset when I am made to share with …  I will say I am not ready and offer him something else”

Parents play a major role in developing their children’s emotional intelligence and there are few things that they should do themselves such as;

  • Talk, talk and talk to their children – how was their day? Did they like lunch? …
  • Listen to the words, Listen to what is said between the words
  • Play with them
  • Respect and not underestimate or minimize their stories and their feelings
  • Discipline without shaming
  • Be present

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I believe that in parenthood we should not take the easy way out, some calls are harder than others, but I like to believe that what I do in mothering my kids is for a greater cause. I like to believe that I am helping in shaping the next generation through my kids. I would love for my children to learn from my mistakes, for them to pick up where I have failed and create their own paths.

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