Research has found that people with high “emotional intelligence” (EI) are more successful in their careers and relationships than those with high IQ. In a nutshell, EI is understanding feelings- your own and those of others. These are skills that we can teach our children from birth by using the five steps of “emotional coaching” outlined by Dr. John Gottman of the Talaris Institude (http://www.talaris.org):
1. Emotional awareness- Recognize your own emotions first and understand that emotions are a normal part of life. Consider how your own parents handled feelings since they were our parental role models. Watch for your children’s expressions of feelings.
2. Connecting- Use emotional moments as times to connect with your child – don’t dismiss but instead encourage expression (appropriately.) Let them know all feelings are okay.
3. Listening- Listen to children’s emotions with empathy and honor- show you understand how s/he is feeling without judgment or criticism. For example, fearing a clown may seem silly to an adult but be truly terrifying for a child.
4. Naming emotions- Help children by identifying their feelings (and yours and others) in order to build a rich emotional vocabulary. The more words they have to express themselves the less likely they are to act out.
5. Finding good solutions- support your children as they explore solutions to the problem. Discipline for misbehavior (like hitting your sister because you are mad) not for feelings (you can be mad but still can’t hit.) Encourage expressions within clear boundaries.
Children with parents who use emotional coaching bounce back quicker, form stronger friendships, calm down more quickly, do better at school, are healthier, and have fewer negative emotions which benefits the whole family!