Raising Happiness: How to Start Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

The journey of a lifetime begins with a few small steps

As parents, we know that our kids are always watching. They are constantly looking to us to know how to behave and respond in every situation. I became aware of this fact even more so while completing some advanced training for my coaching business in emotional intelligence. I had no idea that my greatest learning opportunities (and challenges) in emotional intelligence would come from parenting, not from my clients.

It is very important to me that, as a professional coach, I practice what I preach. Any type of coach training forces you to become more self-aware, so naturally, when I decided to dive in to the topic of emotional intelligence, I had no choice but notice how I was behaving every day. I really started paying attention to how I behaved when I was frustrated or angry, especially in the moments when I knew my son was watching.

Here are three things I have learned about myself, my son, and what it takes to become a well-rounded family on my journey to becoming a better coach:

It’s OK for kids to say no to their parents and other adults!

I was raised during a time when kids were meant to be seen and not heard. If you talked back to an adult and your parents found out you were in big trouble. Manners are important, but so is your child’s ability to say no and express their own needs and preferences.

I was already painfully shy as a child. Combining that with the lesson that children did not speak up in front of adults under any circumstances meant that I grew up not knowing how to articulate my own needs. We want our children to be assertive enough to stand up for themselves and get what they need without being aggressive. When kids say no or are even defiant to their parents or teachers, they are beginning to build that muscle that will allow them to become assertive adults. Our job as parents is to teach them how to do this effectively instead of simply telling them that it’s not polite to say no or disagree with an adult.

When we dismiss, scold, or become impatient with our children when they say no, we are missing out on a key learning opportunity to help our kids learn how to effectively express what they need and want.

Children are learning how to manage their emotions from their parents

I always make the same sound when I am frustrated. It’s kind of a growl under my breath (something like when Marge Simpson gets mad at Homer). I was sitting in the living room working on my laptop one evening and was becoming increasingly frustrated with a document I was trying to format. I was definitely growling. I almost dropped my laptop when I heard my son emit my signature sound as he expressed his own frustration with his Jenga tower that kept falling over. That was the moment when I realized that my son is learning how to handle his own emotions by watching how my husband and I handle ours.

Certain activities, images, words, and even people will trigger specific emotions for both adults and children. When we know what our triggers are, we can prepare ourselves to deal with the situation in a productive manner and we can help our kids do the same. I now make a point of helping my child label his emotions in the moment, and I let him know that it’s ok to feel that way. The next step is helping him deal with that emotion in a healthy, productive way.

We must teach our kids the meaning of their emotions

The first thing I teach my adult coaching clients in our sessions is the meaning of each emotion and how to identify how each emotion is impacting their behaviour.

Most of my clients say the same thing: “How is it that we get to adulthood without knowing how to identify our basic emotions and our patterns for expressing our emotions?” Great question. At some point, I am sure our kindergarten teacher explained to us what it means to be ‘happy or sad.’ But as we grow up, our thoughts, emotions, and experiences becoming increasingly complicated and intertwined.

It can be difficult to tease out multiple emotions occurring at the same time and the unconscious patterns we have developed for expressing our emotions. The more often we work with our kids to help them identify each emotion, the greater the likelihood they will have healthy emotional hygiene as they move into adulthood. If you are not sure where to start to better understand your own emotions or how to talk to your kids about their emotions, the organization Six Seconds has a great resource.

Parenting comes with many challenges. My husband and I have had many conversations after we put our son to bed about how we are both showing up in front of our son. We have developed our own strategies for managing our emotions in front of him and for helping our son express his own emotions effectively, because we know that emotionally intelligent kids become emotionally intelligent adults!

 RELATED: Teaching Our Children About Truth, Kindness, and the Reality of Being Nice

In 2014 Corina Walsh made the bold choice to leave her secure, well-paying job behind to venture out into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship. Having worked in both the private and public sector for 10 years Corina was feeling unfulfilled and needed a new challenge that would make her heart sing! She started her company, Shift People Development, with the mission to help professionals build meaningful careers and companies create happy, engaging workplaces.  With expertise in leadership, emotional intelligence, and personal branding, Corina delivers keynotes, presentations, and interviews on how we can all leverage what makes us unique to be better leaders and parents!

Corina is the Newfoundland Chair of GroYourBiz, a business mastermind for women entrepreneurs, a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, and a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. In 2015 she was named as one of the Top 50 Leaders Under 40 in Atlantic Canada by 21 Inc. In her downtime Corina enjoys heading to the beach with her husband and son where they have competitions to find the best skipping rocks!