Sowing seeds is an excellent analogy depicting the process of raising healthy, emotionally intelligent children. The ability to lay a foundation for healthy relationships for our children is essential according to Bill Murphy Jr., in his article “How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 7 Important Things to Teach Them.” According to Murphy, “We all want our kids to be happy and successful, so it makes sense to work backward and figure out how to make it happen.”
Step 1: To be happy and successful, they need to develop great relationships; Step 2: To develop those relationships, they need adequate emotional intelligence. And Step 3: To develop emotional intelligence, it helps if their mentors (especially their parents) model good behavior in love and partnerships.”
Murphy turned to a former colleague, Leigh Anderson, at ScaryMommy.com, who put together an incredible prescription for teaching kids “to do this, and why.” Anderson reached out to Carrie Cole, a therapist at Gottman Institute, to find out how to go about having a good relationship with your partner and in turn mirroring it for your children. After compiling her research, Anderson came up with the following 7 important things to teach your kids:
Teach them to “turn toward.” We “bid for attention” with people we care about by doing things—starting conversations, for example—in the hope they’ll demonstrate interest and warmth. For example, you might tell your spouse or family member you learned something really cool today. You hope that he or she will “turn toward” you by inquiring further with interest about your experience.
Teach them to politely turn down bids for attention. We can’t always be available to others bidding for our attention, but we can teach our kids how to refrain from “turning toward,” in a way that shows you still value your relationships. If your child is bidding for attention from you while you’re cooking dinner, simply explain that you’re not able to give them your full attention now, but you will be able to after dinner is prepared.
Teach them to “be overwhelmed without freaking out.”. The goal here is to maintain control of your emotions even when you’re not in control of a situation. Anderson writes, “Learning to be under stress without taking it out on your nearest and dearest is a valuable relationship skill.”
Teach them to “make repairs.” To put it simply, we all fall short. Everybody makes mistakes. The key thing you want to model for your kids is how to react when you’ve screwed up. Apologizing and making amends goes a long way with showing others you care about their needs.
Teach them to appreciate others out loud. Learn to verbalize compliments and your gratitude. Anderson notes, “In small moments, catch someone doing something well or right.” Kids need to hear praise.
Teach them that contempt is verboten. We all get angry at the people we care about. However, the important thing is to show kids that it never overwhelms the underlying love.
Teach them not to tell mean jokes. Jokes are great; however, mean jokes are often thinly veiled vessels for contempt—and we’ve already seen that contempt is the sign of a dead relationship. Sarcastic remarks or jokes directed toward a loved one is a sign of a lack of emotional intelligence.
We may not realize the connection between our actions and our children’s own behavior but remember the idiom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Originally published in the Bay City Tribune on Sunday, July 30, 2017