How do we help our children develop emotional intelligence?   What will empower them and create safety when emotions are running high?

Step 1:

Teach them on a regular basis that it is OK to have all their feelings!  This is easy to say and sometimes hard to hold true for ourselves.  In their experience – is it OK to cry?…to be angry? What about being super excited?  Be aware if you tell them it is ok, while disallowing certain feelings in yourself?  As adults –  how often do we squelch our own feelings of anger, sadness, or excitement in a week because of embarrassment or self judgement?

Step 2:

Consistently teach them the difference between a feeling and a behavior.  Help them understand that feeling frustration, jealousy, anger etc. is not what leads to unfortunate consequences.  It is the behavior or reaction; ie, disrespectful words, hitting, biting, screaming, there are so many different possibilities! Include teaching moments outside of their personal experiences….highlight examples that you notice on tv shows or when it is happening around them at a park, this will allow them to see it with out their own fears clouding the issue. Most of all be the best example of this – apologize when we react and behave in a way we wouldn’t want them to, always demonstrating and communicating that it is OK for us, YES – even us – to have and to feel our feelings.

Step 3:

Help them recognize when they are having a strong feeling and identify what it is with out judging it.  Teach them vocabulary so they can communicate accurately what it is.  A child may express anger when they actually have jealous feelings. Imagine if they can:

  1. be aware when they feel bad, knowing what ever it is,… it’s OK!
  2. determine what the feeling actually is and be able to name it, and
  3. communicate with you or others about it.

What are the odds that this child will need anger management courses as an adult?

OK, I lied.  There’s four:

Everyone needs a safe outlet to express highly charges feelings.  In my house, we set up options for our 7 year old,  like kicking and punching the leftover Costco boxes out in the garage or body slamming the couch cushions while someone else held them…often, what began as releasing pent up feelings would end in relief, empowerment and joy.  Overtime, his need for these activities was noticeably lessened.  Expressing strong feelings can be very healing, we just need to own them as ours and express them without directing them at others.

We all know how being unempowered feels!  Let’s remove the drama around this issue and empower our kids – teaching them and demonstrating ourselves that emotions are mentionable and manageable!