Teaching Emotional Intelligence

January 16, 2014/Confessions

emotional intelligence

I’m not going to pretend to be emotionally intelligent. As an avoider, I tend to try not to deal with my emotions at all!  But knowing it isn’t healthy, I’m trying to teach my children what to do with their emotions. As Ainsley said the other day, she has “big feelings.”

Emotional Intelligence – in layman’s terms – is basically being able to identify one’s emotions and know what to do with them. There’re typically three types of people – those who don’t want to deal with emotions (the avoider), those who allow themselves to have emotions but don’t know what to do with them (the feeler), and then the emotionally intelligent folks who allow themselves to feel but then have healthy coping mechanisms to help them deal with big emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, etc.

Like I said, I’m trying to raise my children with emotional intelligence, but it can be hard teaching something I feel so inept with. HOWEVER!!! (and the point of this whole post), we had a win this weekend.

One of our children, who will remain nameless in case any future bosses or college admissions counselors do a Google background check, has a very hard time when people don’t do what she wants them to do. She gets frustrated and then she gets mean and manipulative. For example, If you don’t do XYZ, then I’m going to <insert something mean here>.

We’ve had conversations about this in the past but it keeps rearing it’s ugly head. After three strikes on Sunday with the same behavior pattern, I finally said to her, “Look, big picture, if you go through life getting mean, vindictive and manipulative when people don’t do what you want, you aren’t going to have meaningful, lasting relationships. You have to figure out a way to get beyond the frustration to good, healthy behavior instead of defaulting to bad behavior.”

We then came up with five things she could do when she was in a funk because she wasn’t getting her way. She came up with the first then stalled out so I supplied the rest:

1. Take a nap (my all-time favorite as it usually resets my brain to ‘positive’ mode.)

2. Play her instrument

3. Be creative – draw, write, color, paint

4. Play quietly alone for a few minutes (also known as getting away to a quiet place to recharge)

5. Read a book

She chose one and set about doing it until she felt better, which took about 10 minutes. Then the kids were off playing together nicely in the basement and I felt like a good mom!  One victory in many lost battles, but I’ll take it.

Comments (3)

  • Lisa / January 16, 2014 / Reply

    Very smart. I think I will use these with Savvy who as of late has been mean, and a bully with her little sister, which Sailor follows suit, right now when we say being mean makes Jesus sad because Jesus wants us to Love each other works, but I think I will also use your points.

  • Laura K / January 16, 2014 / Reply

    Hi Leighann!! I am a long time reader but a seldom commentor. I love your blog 🙂 This last post really hit on something we are stuggling with our daughter. It was like you were peering in our windows. It was so helpful!! Is there a book you are reading that is helping with this issue? If so can you tell me what it is. I would love to read it so I can help equip my daughter and son with ways they can identify and deal with their emotions.
    Thanks!! And congratulations on your new little Piper.

    • (Author) Leighann / January 17, 2014 / Reply

      Hey Laura, I read John Gottman’s “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” and skimmed “Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids” by H. Norman Wright and Gary J. Oliver, Ph.D. (I also read a marriage book by Gottman and can’t remember which one now, but it was good. 🙂 ) The key is teaching your children feelings aren’t wrong. Ever. They are visceral reactions to our perception of life. However, they don’t always tell us the truth. It is healthy to control your feelings and not let them control you. The way we do that is by acknowledging our feelings and even allowing ourselves to have them (i.e., grief, anger, sadness), but after an appropriate time-frame – sometimes immediately, sometimes days or weeks or longer as in the case of grief, it’s time to move on. Figuring out healthy coping mechanisms helps us let go of the feelings…. exercise, creativity, socializing, etc. Good luck!

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