Parents Follow These 3 Steps to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child

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Parents, I have an important message for you. Of all the gifts you can give your children, emotional intelligence is probably the most valuable.

For decades, it was believed that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was the primary factor in the ability of a child or adult to be successful in life. Now, thanks to lots of research, we know differently. Emotional Intelligence (also known as EQ) is more important to life satisfaction and success than IQ.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

So what exactly is emotional intelligence? EQ expert Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. defines it as the ability to manage your own emotions, and also the emotions of others. If you have a high EQ, you are able to recognize your feelings when you have them and understand what they mean. You are also able to read what others are feeling and respond to them appropriately. This makes you well-equipped to manage complex interpersonal experiences.

The importance of EQ to life success has been established in study after study over the last 15 years. Research has shown that students who receive training in emotional intelligence at school try harder in classes, have better self-awareness and self-confidence, and manage their stress better in school.

Not only that, high EQ adults are more effective and more successful in leadership positions in both business settings and in the military.

Despite the incredible value of these skills, they are not in the minds of most parents as they raise their children. Parents want to teach their children how to behave, but they are probably not thinking about teaching them how to handle their emotions.

But this must change. Because fortunately, although a parent may have some difficulties helping his child understand complex math or chemistry concepts, all parents have the capacity to help their children develop emotional intelligence.

3 Steps To Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children 

  1. Know that your child’s behavior is driven by his feelings. So the best way to teach her to behave is to help her learn how to manage her emotions.
  2. Set a goal to notice your child’s feelings. This step alone is enormously important.
  3. Never judge your child for having feelings. Accept his feeling, and then step in to help him name it, understand why he is having it, and manage it.

Example of The 3 Steps In Action

As Marcy stood chatting with another mom at their daughters’ soccer game, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that her 10-year-old daughter Halley was playing very aggressively. She was kicking the ball in a too-hard, undirected, and out-of-control fashion. As she watched, she saw Halley kick so hard that she missed the ball altogether, and then sit down on the field appearing to be in tears.

Macy and Halley

Marcy walked over to meet Halley on the sideline, where the coach sent her to cool down. “What’s going on Halley?” she asked her daughter. (This question tells Halley that her feelings are visible and important.)

“I hate soccer and I don’t want to play ever again,” Halley exclaimed with disgust in her voice.

“What’s making you so angry right now, Hon?” (Marcy has named the feeling for her daughter).

“Sophia and Katy were ganging up on me before practice, and they’re still doing it on the field. I hate those two,” Marcy explains, breaking into tears now.

“Aw, Halley, it always hurts so much to get ganged up on. No one likes that!” (Here Marcy has validated Halley’s feelings as understandable while also establishing that her painful experience happens to other people too.)

“You can handle this Halley. I know you’re hurt, but you can put that aside for now and finish the game. Then we’ll talk about what to do about Sophia and Katy on the way home, OK?” Putting her hand in the air for their trademark “pinky high-five,” Marcy says. “You’re strong and you got this.” Halley does the high-five with her mom and nods her head reluctantly. (Here Marcy has shown Halley that her feelings can be managed, and also how to do it.)

Years from now, at age 26, Halley will benefit from this exact experience. She will find herself feeling excluded at work, right before a meeting in which she has to present an important project. She will notice that she’s angry, and she will realize that her feelings matter. She will take a moment to identify the reason (she feels excluded).

Armed with this self-awareness of what she’s feeling and why she will now use the emotion management skills her mother taught her. She will say to herself, “I will think this through later. Right now I need to focus on this presentation.” With that, Halley will put a smile on her face and walk into the meeting looking composed and confident.

Marcy could have handled the soccer situation very differently. She might have walked over to Halley and said any of these things that any parent might say:

Pull it together, Kiddo, and get back out there.

This kind of behavior will get you kicked off the team!

What the heck is the problem?

You’re really annoying the coach!

If you’re not going to play the game right, we might as well go home.

None of these responses from a parent would be horrific or unreasonable, but all would ignore the importance of the child’s feelings (the definition of Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN). And all would miss an important opportunity to teach the child emotional intelligence.

If you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect yourself; if your parents didn’t teach you the EQ skills, then you may need to begin to learn them yourself.

But as a parent, you don’t have to be perfect at this. You only have to be willing to try. Please know that every single time you notice, respond to, and validate your child’s emotions, you are giving him the skills for a lifetime. Skills for confidence, connection, success, and motivation.

Possibly the greatest, most loving gift ever.

To learn how to emotionally connect with, and emotionally validate, a child of any age (small, teen or adult), see the book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, your Parents & Your Children. To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 

CEN can be invisible and unmemorable so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take the CEN Questionnaire. It’s free.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Kaylee - May 14, 2019 Reply

It seems such a small thing with the football example you gave. I was obviously neglected as a child and didn’t realise neglect can be so discreet. Im grateful for finding your website so i can try not to make these mistakes with my daughter.
Im going to order your book.

    Jonice - May 14, 2019 Reply

    Good for you Kaylee! That is so important.

Becky - March 4, 2019 Reply

This example you used demonstrates exactly what happens in real life. If parents years ago would have took time to just ask what was wrong a lot more people would be a lot happier today. Thank you for the work you have done

    Jonice - March 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Becky, I agree! It would have made the world a better place. Hopefully, we can still do that now, for the future of kids everywhere.

Cecile - March 3, 2019 Reply

Hi Jonice,
of course this is all correct. Obviously the second set of remarks (these are not a dialog to begin with) is not desirable. The presentation of the 1st dialog though, while vastly superior, to me, lacks 2 dimensions: (a) it takes time and space for EQ to happen: sometimes your kid will not even cool down to talk, sometimes it has to stop right now in order to avoid consequences, and as a parent, you may not have said time and space to have the dialog right then. With my son, there is often a cool down period, several hours, before i can go discuss and process what happened because it is too raw in the moment. (b) whether the dialog takes place in the moment or later, as it reads, it does validate the child and his/her emotions, but it makes no mention of consequences, what the behavior/reaction does to others and the living together and the consequences that will ensue. It doesn’t read in adding to validation, about the child making choices. Granted, the example was probably for a young child, and i have teenager behaviors in mind. While i teach EQ, i also have to teach responsibility – these dialogs are more 2-stroke than one, 1st validation and process, 2nd impact on self and others, choices and responsibility. For sure, starting EQ early and avoiding catch up in teenage years is way more doable (luxury i didn’t have for complicated reasons).

    Jonice - March 4, 2019 Reply

    Hi Cecile, thanks for your helpful comments. Indeed parents must set appropriate limits with their children around behavior, and that is a part of emotional attunement too. I’ll write another article that focuses on that piece too. I appreciate your mentioning this important piece!

    Rachel - March 4, 2019 Reply

    Personally, as I’ve learned & applied EQ, I’ve noticed my children (ages 11 & 14) needing less and less “cool down” time. Their past experience taught them their feelings would go unheard so they were unable to hear me because they were focused on trying to force me to notice their feelings via more and more over the top reactions. As I started consistently listening to and validating their emotions they’ve generally been much more able to identify their immediate “top level” feelings & process what I’m saying to them in the moment. I think it’s because they trust that they will be heard and it essentially frees their brain up to safely pay attention to their feelings and decide what to do about them. It’s also made them more apt to consider how others may be impacted by their actions.

    While it doesn’t always work out that way of course, I’ve generally had to apply fewer consequences because I can see them learning the necessary lessons with only natural consequences.

      Jonice - March 4, 2019 Reply

      What a wonderful description of emotionally attuned parenting. It is so difficult to do, but especially when you were raised by emotionally neglectful parents yourself. I’m sure your description will help many see what they can do.

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