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Tips from “Emotionally Intelligent Parenting”

Steven Tobias co-authored "Emotionally Intelligent Parenting" in 1999 with Drs. M.I. Elias and B.S. Friedlander. The book presents a model for facilitating the emotional, social, and behavioral development of children. It is based on the principles and strategies Dr. Tobias teaches in the parenting workshops at the Center.

Listed below are "The Top Ten Ways to be a More Emotionally Intelligent Parent."

10. Expect your children to do as you do, not as you say. Modeling EQ skills is extremely important if you really want your children to use them. Show them how to regulate their feelings and express their anger appropriately by doing so yourself. When problem solving an issue of your own, think out loud so your children can hear you reflect, set goals, evaluate alternatives, plan and anticipate roadblocks. If you want your children to listen to you, listen to them.

9. Remind them, remind them, remind them. How many times is a child exposed to the letter "A" before they are expected to read it? Self-control and problem solving skills are a lot harder to learn and children need a lot of prompts before they will begin to use the skills independently.

8. Use active listening. Everyone wants to be heard and understood. Paraphrasing back to children what they are saying to you reinforces them for communicating with you. It also allows you to gently rephrase their statements into more appropriate or accurate language. For example, when you ask how a child feels and her reply is that her sister is an idiot, you can help her clarify her feelings by saying, "Gee, it sounds like you are really upset with her." This opens the door to communication rather than shutting it with criticism.

7. Ask open-ended questions. Avoid making accusations such as "Why did you hit him?" Ask what happened, what was he doing, what did he want to have happen? Open-ended questions encourage the child to talk openly.

6. Ask a question; ask another question. It is important to stay in a questioning mode. If you follow-up a question with another question, you will get more information, encourage the child to think
more and avoid a lecture on your part (which will certainly end communication).

5. Sometimes, appear to know less than you do. Ask questions as if you do not understand. Instead of "Why did you fail that test?",. ask, "I don’t understand how you got this grade. What happened?" When the child says he studied, ask, "That doesn’t seem fair… what could have happened so that the studying did not work?" This gets the child to think in a nondefensive manner.

4. Be patient… be VERY patient. Learning the skills necessary to get along in all kinds of social situations and to manage strong feelings is not easy, especially if the skills don’t appear to come naturally for your child. It can take a long time, both when teaching it and when children are learning it. Fortunately, childhood lasts a long time. Be patient with them and with yourself. Look for small improvements, starting in certain situations or with certain people. Build on these improvements and you will find it easier than expecting miracles. Skills take time to learn but then last for a lifetime.

3. If you bend you won’t break. Be flexible in the way in which you try to build your child’s EQ. Look for a variety of opportunities to teach and reinforce these skills. Above all, do not expect perfection in yourself or others.

2. Know your child. Some children learn quickly, others take more time. Generally, as children get older they can handle more independence and responsibility but only give as much independence as the child can take responsibility for.

1. Have fun! Enjoy your children. Have a sense of humor. Situations usually aren’t as bad as you think at first. Even when things are especially troubling, being depressed about it and angry at your child all the time will definitely not help. Children learn best when they have a close, loving relationship and when they are having fun. Make learning the skills of Emotional Intelligence fun. Your whole family will benefit.