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Love and Parenting: Emotional intelligence

What is emotional intelligence, and can it be taught?  Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you. According to the mental health America website, the five key elements to emotional intelligence are emotional awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Yes, emotional intelligence can be learned, but the most effective way to learn emotional intelligence is watching the adults around you. 

When your child is upset ask them to explain to you why they feel the way they do and help them define the feeling. Help them to learn to think through their feelings. Are they tired, hungry, sad?  Don’t allow them to act out or project their feelings on to people around them. As parents we must guard ourselves as well. We cannot project our feelings of tiredness or frustration with work on to our children. 

This leads me to the next topic, which is being aware of how others feel and taking responsibility for our behavior. I am a firm believer in parents apologizing to their children. When we acknowledge our shortcomings and apologize, our children will naturally gravitate to the same behavior. It is so healthy to have the ability and humility to say, “I’m sorry” in a relationship. This one action sounds like I’m sorry, but says, “You matter to me more than my pride or my need to be right. I value you. “Another way to create awareness of other’s feelings is to ask your child, “How do you think your friend felt?” in a difficult situation with a friend. When my children are having a disagreement with a friend, I always listen and then ask them to reflect on how their friend might be feeling. 

Children also need to learn techniques for calming themselves down. When my oldest son was five, he used to put himself in what he called “time out.” He would say, “I’m feeling angry, so I’m going to have a timeout in my room and look at books.” When he decided to leave his room, he would be in a much better mood and ready to socialize. Our family got the biggest laugh from this self-appointed timeout, but it worked. He is still one of my calmest children. You must find the technique that works for your child. Some children need hugs, some need to talk, and some need physical activity. 

Lastly, I would say that it is very important that children learn not to take outsiders’ emotions personally. We live in a world where people are often projecting their bad feelings onto others, and it is very important that our children realize they don’t have to subject themselves to others’ bad behavior or fix other people’s bad behavior. 

In closing, I would like to add that practicing emotional intelligence teaches children to look for emotional intelligence in others. This is so valuable in the adult world when it comes to the workplace, hiring employees, choosing a spouse and raising children. How we respond to our own feelings and others impacts our work and home environment, making our lives very difficult or very enjoyable. 

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“Love is a journey not a destination.”

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