When I came across a reference to this book in the Times Magazine last week I realised I hadn’t posted about emotional intelligence for a while, even though it was one of the earliest topics I wanted to include.
It was only a short column but it made several good points based on John Gottman’s book.
Most people are now aware of emotional intelligence and how it can be developed throughout your life (unlike IQ which is relatively static).
It comprises a number of key skills or competences (depending on which model you follow) but the generic model is four interlinked quadrants which are about:
- Self-awareness (knowing how you are feeling)
- Awareness of others (including empathy)
- Controlling your emotions (self-control)
- Managing relationships (social skills)
Gottman suggests parents or carers should:
- Listen with empathy Pay close attention to when your child is saying what he feels and mirror it back. Check you have understood and use examples from your own experience to show you have understood.
- Help the child to name feelings Encourage your child to build an emotional vocabulary by giving him labels for his feelings. Let him know this is normal to have different feelings about things.
- Validate their child’s emotions Don’t say there’s “no need to be upset” when your child gets mad. Acknowledge how natural it is.
- Turn tantrums into teaching tools When a child gets upset about something that is going to happen help them prepare for it. Talk to him about why he is scared, what he can expect and why he has to do it.
- Use conflict to teach problem-solving When your child is arguing or fighting with another child make it clear there are limits then guide him to a solution. “What else can you do when you get mad?” Guide him some options if necessary. Children need to know it’s OK to be angry but not to hurt people because of that.
- Set an example by staying calm Don’t get verbally harsh when you’re angry. You could say “It upsets me when you do that” rather than “You drive me mad!” The child needs to understand it’s his behaviour that upsets you not him. Excessive criticism can undermine a child’s self-confidence.
- Stay in touch with their own feelings Don’t ignore your own negative emotions in order to spare your child’s feelings. Hiding your real feelings will confuse your child. Acknowledge that you’re displeased without acting upset to show your child that even difficult feelings can be managed.
Many of these suggestions are based on your being a good role model for your children.
See earlier posts on emotional intelligence