Raising emotionally intelligent children

Developing Emotional Intelligence is the key to helping children bounce back from setbacks. Strong emotional intelligence gives children the resilience to keep going, even when they are plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle helps children reach their greatest potential in life.

This doesn’t mean they won’t cry when they are sad or that they will not fail sometimes. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Emotionally intelligent children are in tune with their disappointments and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes, but they are also much more able to rise up and try again.

Raising emotionally intelligent children who are strong and equipped to tackle life’s toughest challenges, requires parents to avoid many common yet unhealthy parenting practices.

  • Adopting a victim mentality. Rejection, failure and unfairness are a part of life and experiencing these does not necessarily mean that we are a ‘victim’. Teach your children that no matter how tough or unjust their circumstances, they can always take positive action.
  • Guilt versus wisdom. Show your children that even though you feel guilty sometimes – and all good parents do – you are not going to allow your uncomfortable emotions to get in the way of making wise decisions. Children who learn that guilt is intolerable will never be able to say no to someone who says, “be my friend and let me copy your paper,” or, “if you loved me, you would do this for me.”
  • Share the love. Help your children to be team players, empathetic and grateful. Parents whose entire lives revolve around their children are on track to creating self-absorbed, entitled adults, who think that everyone should cater to them. Teach your children to focus on what they have to offer the world, rather than what they can gain from it.
  • Facing fear head on. Whilst it might spare parents anxiety in the short term, playing it too safe and keeping children inside a protective bubble teaches them that fear should be avoided. Show your children that the best way to conquer fear is to face it head-on and you will raise courageous people who are willing to step outside their comfort zone.
  • Who’s the boss? Give your children the opportunity to make age-appropriate choices as part of the family, whilst maintaining a clear hierarchy and teaching respect. Allowing children to dictate what happens in the home gives them more power than they are developmentally ready to handle. Treating young children like an equal, or the boss, actually robs them of emotional intelligence. Give your children an opportunity to practice taking instruction, listening to things they don’t want to hear and doing things they don’t want to do.
  • Perfection is not the answer. Expecting your children to perform to the best of their ability is healthy; expecting them to be perfect will backfire. Teach them that it’s okay to fail and that you don’t expect them to be great at everything they do. Children who strive to become the best version of themselves, rather than the best at everything, have a strong sense of self-worth that doesn’t depend on how they measure up to others.  
  • Being responsible. Letting children back out of doing chores or avoiding them getting an after-school job can be tempting – after all, they already have so many activities and homework. Ensuring that children perform age-appropriate duties is just as important as participating in extra-curricular activities and community service.  It gives them the tools they need to become responsible citizens.
  • Dealing with disappointment. One of the most difficult things for a parent to endure is to see their child in pain, physically or emotionally. Hurt feelings, sadness and anxiety are part of life. Providing children with the guidance and support they need to deal with pain so they can gain confidence in their ability to handle life’s inevitable hardships is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give. We instinctively want to support our children when they’re feeling sad and upset. Proactively teaching them healthy ways to cope with their emotions means they can learn how to self-regulate and won’t always depend on others to pull them out of the fog.
  • Ground the helicopter. Correcting your children’s Maths homework, double checking to make sure they’ve packed their lunch and constantly reminding them to do their chores won’t give them the skills they need to be successful adults. Natural consequences can be some of life’s greatest teachers. Show your children how to learn from their mistakes so they can grow wiser and become stronger.
  • Learning through consequences. Punishment involves making children suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is different. It is about teaching them how to do better in the future. There’s a difference between children who are fearful of ‘getting into trouble’ and children who are prepared to accept the consequences for their actions and learn to make better decisions in the future. Use consequences that help your children develop the self-discipline they need to make better decisions.
  • Good things come to those who wait. Role model delayed gratification and show your children that you can resist tempting shortcuts. You’ll teach them they’re strong enough to persevere even when they want to give up. Although giving in to a persistent child or doing your children’s chores for them will make your life a little easier right now, those shortcuts instil unhealthy habits in your children for the long term.

It’s so easy to become wrapped up in the day-to-day chaos of life and forget to look at the bigger picture. At school, we instil the values and teach the skills that will make your children responsible, versatile and emotionally intelligent adults who are ready to take on the world. We encourage you as parents, to bring this all home by making your priorities accurately reflect the things you value most in life. Together, we’ll make our children formidable!

About the Author

Roberta Goot OAM is Co-acting College Principal and Director of Music and Co-Curricular K-12 at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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