Having just read Lisa Firestone’s “Why We Need to Teach Kids Emotional Intelligence” I’m moved to underscore one of her ideas (link). That idea is that when we “emotionally mess up” around our children we don’t ignore it or pretend it never happened…but we admit our mistake, and commit to learning together.

The upside of being honest with our children, and showing them how to bounce back after an emotional upset is that they build coping skills. Children will usually repeat what you do. The good, bad and indifferent. So helping your son or daughter recognize that you’re:

  • The parent but still learning,
  • Both learning together, and;
  • In it together no matter what, is valuable.

Said differently, parents that take a partnership approach with their children as far as learning emotional intelligence produce higher EQ kids. They feel heard and supported as they learn how to navigate their rich and often complex emotional landscape. Of course, there are times when things are non-negotiable as a parent, but when it comes to showing your children how to handle distressing emotions and build positive ones – this is done best as a team sport.

For example, Angela is one of my parent clients and the mom of three boys (all under 7 years old). She was driving down the 101 in California last week, and Ethan was touching Sammy who was poking Jonathan. Needless to say, all three boys were making lots of noise. Angela couldn’t concentrate on driving and took the next exit. Pulling into a parking lot she explained to her sons how frustrated she was, how she needed to take some deep breaths, and that they needed to play better together. Her pull-off was probably 20 or so minutes long but she said, “I had to get calm and help my boys do the same.”

Helping children learn emotional awareness and self-regulation isn’t always pretty, but it’s in these seemingly ordinary moments where extraordinary lessons are learned. And having worked with 1000’s of children I can tell you that no child wants a perfect parent but merely someone they can trust as their champion and guide in this big, sometimes scary world.

By Maureen Healy

Maureen Healy is an award-winning author and expert in children’s emotional health. Her book, Growing Happy Kids, shares how to nurture a deeper sense of confidence, and ultimately happiness in children. In 2016, her new social and emotional learning curriculum launches in select schools. Learn more: www.highlysensitivekids.com

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