Research on defiant children shows that they tend to lack something called emotional intelligence (EQ). A lack of emotional intelligence is basically a lack of emotional maturity. Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence, which involves our ability to understand, use, regulate, and manage our emotions as key determinants of our life success and happiness.
Emotional intelligence appears to be a key predictor of children's ability to make suitable peer relationships, get along at home, develop a well-balanced outlook on life, and to reach their academic potential at school. The term encompasses the following five characteristics and abilities:
1. Self-awareness- knowing your emotions, recognizing feelings as they occur, and discriminating between them
2. Mood management- handling feelings so they're relevant to the current situation and you react appropriately
3. Self-motivation- "gathering up" your feelings and directing yourself toward a goal, despite self-doubt, inertia, and impulsiveness
4. Empathy- recognizing feelings in others and tuning into their verbal and nonverbal cues
5. Managing relationships- handling interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, and negotiations
Chances are your defiant child has lower than normal levels of emotional intelligence, which is a big reason why life is so difficult for him. In short, your child's lower EQ limits his or her ability to use two key coping skills: calming down and solving problems. Therefore, many of the things your child "chooses" not to do (e.g., be more self-aware, considerate of others, and control his impulses) may actually be things he can't do. The more you understand your child's emotional immaturity and limitations, the more you can begin to work around them rather than clash with them.
To bypass your child's lack of emotional intelligence it is helpful to be calm, firm, and non-controlling as I describe in my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. I will discuss coaching your child to become more emotionally intellgent in my next blog.