Parenting to Boost Your Child's Emotional IntelligenceJul 01, 2021
When I began receiving coaching, and then becoming a coach myself, I found myself needing to “unlearn” habits and ways of thinking that had been ingrained in me since childhood. As I coach parents now, I find that I’m helping them do the same.
This got me thinking, what can we do to help our children learn these different ways of thinking to avoid years of struggling emotionally – both as an individual and in relationships – in their search for happiness?
How can we help build a new generation that grows up resilient with a solid emotional IQ instead of having to learn emotional intelligence as an adult? I believe that the answer to this is mindful parenting with our kids' emotional health in mind, and teaching our kids these concepts so they develop a strong emotionally healthy foundation (or EQ) that serves them throughout their life.
When we teach our children about their thoughts and feelings, we give them tools that positively impact their self-confidence, emotional intelligence, and levels of success for the rest of their lives.
Research is showing that kids with high EQs earn better grades and make healthier choices all around, and that a high EQ is a better predictor of career success than IQ. I’m seeing more and more articles on how emotional intelligence will take your kids further in life.
So how do we parent to increase our children’s emotional intelligence? It starts with YOU being open, to looking at things differently, to “unlearning” old habits and ways of thinking, and working toward staying mindful – because mindful parenting can be counterintuitive at times, going against all of your natural instincts.
Unlearning What is Instinctual
Last week we talked about what to do when we hear our kids start engaging in negative self-talk. Intuitively we want to tell our children it’s not true, and tell them all of the positive things that we want them to think about themselves. But what if we taught them that negative thoughts were completely normal? What if we taught them to question the negative thought instead of just believing it?
The concept that negative thoughts are normal and nothing has gone wrong is the first counterintuitive concept for us to grapple with. This can be a lot to wrap your head around so let me explain further. We all have negative thoughts about ourselves. Where we run into trouble is when we believe the thought, or make it mean something about us. Then we go down a rabbit hole of judgment and shame or other negative feelings.
Have you ever noticed that your brain tends to take a negative thought and make it all-encompassing or an absolute truth? We tend to see this when our thoughts contain words like “always” and “never”, or you hear definitive statements of “I’m not” or “I am”.
I spend a great deal of time coaching adults around their ways of thinking. When I hear someone state “this always happens”, I tend to question it. If someone tells me that their partner/boss/kid/sibling/parent always does something, I ask for specifics. When was the last time that happened? and the time before that? Typically you’ll find that the always something has only truly occurred a couple of times, and not always.
I also find that I do a lot of coaching around the stories we use to build our identities, and much of that comes from when we were kids. Perhaps you didn’t get picked first in third-grade kickball, so you decided you weren’t good at sports. A thought like that can follow you into adulthood. Perhaps you drew a tiger in the first grade and your teacher thought it was a zebra, so you decided you weren’t good at drawing, or you got a low grade on one math test so you decided you weren’t good at math or with numbers.
The alternative is noticing when your brain is offering up a negative thought about yourself, noting it and telling yourself that it’s completely normal, brains do that and nothing has gone wrong. You don’t judge it or believe it, and you don’t make it mean anything about you... you just move on. Next! Can you imagine how freeing that would be?
In general, we always believe our thoughts because we were never taught to question them. We were never taught as children that a lot of the thoughts our brain offers us aren’t even true.
In the case from last week, my client’s 4-year-old daughter took one criticism about not listening and her brain turned this into “I’m not a good listener” which -– of course, isn’t even true, this child is typically a very good listener. How can we spot these moments in our children and help them from developing an identity based on a thought that's untrue?
As parents, how do we teach our children to question the thoughts that their brain is offering them? We get curious and we ask a lot of questions. We don’t want to just point out the truth to them, we want them to teach them how to do it for themselves. We want them to build their own self-awareness, and the skills for questioning their own thoughts.
Here are some questions that you can use:
- Tell me more… Why do you think that?
- Is that always true?
- Can you think of any times when it’s not true?
- If it’s not always true, what do you want to think instead?
Our brains will find evidence for our thoughts, and look to prove them true. So when your child has a negative thought, their brain will look to find evidence to back it up and prove it true. That’s how all of our brains work.
On the flip side, our brain will also look to answer any question that it’s asked. So when you get curious and start asking your kids questions, their brain will start looking for answers. Ideally you want them to answer the questions, gain awareness, and come to the conclusion on their own. The results are way more impactful when they figure out the answers for themselves, it helps them increase their self-awareness.
Your role is to poke holes in the negative thought and show them that it’s not all encompassing, and not necessarily true all the time. We want to teach our kids that thoughts are like advertising pop-up boxes. We have a choice as to whether we believe it or not, or whether we just click on the X to close it out. The key is to learn to question it in the first place.
With self-awareness, coaching is key
It’s easy to poke holes in someone else’s thoughts, but it’s not as easy to see what is going on in our own brains. It’s like trying to read the label of a jar from the inside... and staying on top of your own thoughts enables you to be a more present and mindful parent so you can notice your kid's thoughts. This is where coaching comes in. If you are having parenting challenges or want support in becoming a more mindful parent, I can help! Kids don’t come with a parenting manual. Find out how a parent coach can help you raise your kids more confidently with better relationships. Go to melpeirce.com/consult to book a free call and discover how a parent coach can help you.
I’d also like to personally invite you to join the Mindful Parent Circle (melpeirce.com/join) so you’ll get notified of my free online workshops and events. I’m looking forward to seeing you on the inside!
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