Children who are more connected emotionally to their parents tend to do better in school, have fewer behavioral issues, and grow up to be well adjusted. Most parents mean well and want their children to grow up emotionally healthy, but sometimes they make mistakes simply due to ignorance. Often, it’s mistakes their own parents made. You’ve likely heard people say, “My parents did it, and I’m fine.” It’s cognitive dissonance at its worst.
The truth is that if you really try – even if you had difficult parents – you can improve your parenting skills by keeping up-to-date on the newest, most important research on what helps children become productive, emotionally healthy adults. One of the most interesting areas of research is into emotional intelligence, or EI. Raising EI children is something that you can learn, and you can start at any point in their lives and get great results.
Children who have emotional intelligence tend to get into less trouble as children and young adults and are less likely to either bully or be bullied themselves. They are often described as very empathetic and helpful by teachers and friends. Employers tend to rate people with high EI as better at their jobs too.
The Different Parenting Styles
There are three typical parenting styles:
Authoritarian – Strict rules are made and are expected to be followed without any questions asked. Often in this case a child’s feelings are completely ignored in favor of whatever the parent desires.
Permissive – Very hands-off, no rules, and not requiring any self-control of their children.
Authoritative – Rule-oriented but more flexible than authoritarian parenting.
Emotion Coaching Parenting
We are suggesting a new parenting style centered on teaching emotional intelligence. The book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, discusses a new way of parenting he calls emotion coaching. With emotion coaching parenting, the parent seeks to help lead children naturally through emotions without judgment. They guide children through current emotional issues, as well as talk to children about potential situations and how they might deal with them.
Emotional coach parents do not deny children their natural emotions. If a child feels sad, the parent lets the child feel sad and talks to the child on their level about their feelings of sadness, and gives them tools to help them self-comfort. For example, if you work from home as a virtual assistant and every time you go near the computer your child throws a temper fit and cries loudly, it will be difficult for you to get work done.
It is tempting to scold the child for their feelings. But, the best way to handle it is to talk to the child on their level. Tell the child that you understand that they are sad, and/or angry that mommy has to work. But, if mommy does not work, there will not be money to pay for the house, the food, toys and so forth. Speak to the child on their level, giving examples that they will understand. Always acknowledge their feelings but don’t give in to what they want when it is impossible, then teach them to deal with that fact in a healthy manner.