Why Emotional Intelligence Is The Best Gift You Can Give Your Child (Plus, How To Do It In 3 Steps)

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raise kid emotional intelligence

Parents, I have an important message for you. Of all the gifts you can give your children, emotional intelligence is probably the most valuable.

For decades, it was believed that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was the primary factor in the ability of a child or adult to be successful in life. Now, thanks to lots of research, we know differently.

Emotional Intelligence (also known as EQ) is more important to life satisfaction and success than IQ.

So what exactly is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, PhD defines it as the ability to manage your own emotions, and also the emotions of others. If you have a high emotional intelligence, you are able to recognize your feelings when you have them and understand what they mean. You are also able to read what others are feeling and respond to them appropriately.

This makes you well-equipped to manage complex interpersonal experiences.

The importance of emotional intelligence to life success has been established in study after study over the last 15 years. Research has shown that students who receive training in emotional intelligence at school try harder in classes, have better self-awareness and self-confidence and manage their stress better in school.

Not only that, adults with high levels of emotional intelligence are more effective and more successful in leadership positions in both business settings and in the military.

RELATED: What Exactly Is Childhood Emotional Neglect? (& How To Tell If You Or Your Kids Are Victims)

Despite the incredible value of these skills, they are not in the minds of most parents as they raise their children.

Parents want to teach their children how to behave, but they are probably not thinking about teaching them how to handle their emotions.

But this must change. Because fortunately, although a parent may have some difficulties helping his child understand complex math or chemistry concepts, all parents have the capacity to help their children develop emotional intelligence.

Here are 3 steps to raising emotionally intelligent children:

1. Know that your child’s behavior is driven by his feelings.

So the best way to teach her to behave is to help her learn how to manage her emotions.

2. Set a personal goal to notice your child’s feelings regularly.

This step alone is enormously important.

3. Never judge your child for having feelings.

Accept his feeling, and then step in to help him name it, understand why he is having it, and manage it.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Know If Childhood Emotional Neglect Is Negatively Affecting Your Kids

If you're ready to put these steps into action, consider this scenario:

As Marcy stood chatting with another mom at their daughters’ soccer game, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that her 10-year-old daughter, Halley, was playing very aggressively. She was kicking the ball in a too-hard, undirected and out-of-control fashion. As she watched, she saw Halley kick so hard that she missed the ball altogether, and then sit down on the field appearing to be in tears.

Marcy walked over to meet Halley on the sideline, where the coach sent her to cool down. “What’s going on Halley?” she asked her daughter. (This question tells Halley that her feelings are visible and important.)

“I hate soccer and I don’t want to play ever again,” Halley exclaimed with disgust in her voice.

“What’s making you so angry right now, Hon?” (Marcy has named the feeling for her daughter).

“Sophia and Katy were ganging up on me before practice, and they’re still doing it on the field. I hate those two,” Marcy explains, breaking into tears now.

“Aw, Halley, it always hurts so much to get ganged up on. No one likes that!” (Here Marcy has validated Halley’s feelings as understandable, while also establishing that her painful experience happens to other people too.)

“You can handle this Halley. I know you’re hurt, but you can put that aside for now and finish the game. Then, we’ll talk about what to do about Sophia and Katy on the way home, OK?” Putting her hand in the air for their trademark “pinky high-five,” Marcy says. “You’re strong and you got this.” Halley does the high-five with her mom and nods her head reluctantly. (Here Marcy has shown Halley that her feelings can be managed, and also how to do it.)

Years from now, at age 26, Halley will benefit from this exact experience. She will find herself feeling excluded at work, right before a meeting in which she has to present an important project. She will notice that she’s angry, and she will realize that her feelings matter. She will take a moment to identify the reason. (She feels excluded)

Armed with this self-awareness of what she’s feeling and why, she will now use the emotion management skills her mother taught her.

She will say to herself, “I will think this through later. Right now I need to focus on this presentation.” With that, Halley will put a smile on her face and walk into the meeting looking composed and confident.

Marcy could have handled the soccer situation very differently. She might have walked over to Halley and said any of these things that any parent might say:

  • Pull it together, Kiddo and get back out there.
  • This kind of behavior will get you kicked off the team!
  • What the heck is the problem?
  • You’re really annoying the coach!
  • If you’re not going to play the game right, we might as well go home.

None of these responses from a parent would be horrific or unreasonable, but all would ignore the importance of the child’s feelings (the definition of Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN). And all would miss an important opportunity to teach the child emotional intelligence.

If your parents didn’t teach you emotional intelligence skills (Childhood Emotional Neglect), then you may need to begin to learn them yourself. CEN can be invisible and unmemorable so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take the CEN Questionnaire. It’s free.

RELATED: How People Who Were Emotionally Neglected Can Break The Cycle With Their Kids

But as a parent, you don’t have to be perfect at this in order to help raise your kids with emotional intelligence. You only have to be willing to try.

Please know that every single time you notice, respond to, and validate your child’s emotions, you are giving him the skills for a lifetime — skills for confidence, connection, success and motivation — and possibly the greatest, most loving gift ever.

To learn how to emotionally connect with and emotionally validate a child of any age (small, teen or adult), read Dr. Jonice Webb's book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, your Parents & Your Children.