By Inda H. Brink, LMFT
“The boys usually get along, but recently they argue about nonsense, grab each other’s stuff and have a lot of attitude. When we ask them what’s going on, they say ‘Nothing,’ or ‘I don’t know,’ and we just don’t know what to do!” the parents lamented.
Emotional Intelligence is being able to recognize and manage one’s emotions and in others. John Gottman Ph. D. with Joan DeClaire explain in their book, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own child’s feelings and help them to process their emotions, whether comfortable or uncomfortable.
Step 1 - Lean into your child’s emotions. Use it as a way to connect with them.
It is much easier to work and teach with lower intensity emotions than full blown temper tantrums. Your child’s negative behavior is their way of saying that they want you involved and they need help. Remember: all feelings are acceptable; all behaviors are not. The parents I was working with felt overwhelmed to see their boys interacting harshly with each other. I asked the parents what changes the family had gone through. They explained that their grandma had returned to her home after staying with them for many weeks. It had been a big change just as school started.
Step 2 - Labeling Emotions helps your child.
Labeling feelings is one of the first steps towards creating empathy. When we give a label to the feeling, we are making sense of an otherwise scary and confusing sensation, which in turn lets your child know he or she is not alone. We helped the siblings label their feelings about their grandma returning to her country. They felt very sad, but said that anger was what showed because they didn’t want to cry.
Step 3 - Understand your child’s point of view and support their feelings.
Being in tune with your child’s emotions and using those moments to connect is at the heart of Emotional Intelligence. Physically get down to your child’s level, relax, and focus on your child. Share your observation with them, i.e. “You appear to be mad” versus “Why are you mad?” A child may not know why he/she is mad. The boys explained that they enjoyed their time with their grandma and missed their connection with her. Their parents validated that they missed her and felt sad too.
Step 4 - Putting it together - Emotional Intelligence and Problem Solving.
When our feelings have control over us, effective problem solving is difficult, if not impossible. Once everyone is calmer, think of possible solutions together. The parents brainstormed with their boys as to how they could reach out to their grandma when they missed her. They let the boys express their sadness. They gave the boys activities to encourage them to work and connect with each other. The parents reported that their sons were getting along and having fun together once again.
If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and Parenting, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our therapists. You can contact us through our website or by giving us a call at (408) 351-1044 x3.