Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Proverbs 28:27

The 1828 Webster Dictionary definition of emotion is “literally, a moving of the mind or soul; hence, any agitation of mind or excitement of sensibility.”

A moving of the mind and soul……

Makes sense and at the same time makes our feelings take on a greater significance.  If our emotions move one’s mind and soul, we best make sure we are aware of what direction they are moving us in! C. S. Lewis said this in Mere Christianity:  “every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all you life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”

In addition, emotions  decorate our lives and make us who we are….

Emotions make us feel alive and fully human. They enrich and enhance our experience.  But they can also destroy, like a tornado, plowing down everything in the way.
To quote Oswald Chambers…..
The tendency is in us all to say, “you must not trust in feelings”; perfectly true, but if your religion is without feeling, there is nothing in it.  If you are living a life right with God, you will have feelings, most emphatically so, but you will never run the risk of basing your faith on feelings.  The Christian is one who bases his whole confidence in God and His work of grace, then the emotions become the beautiful ornament of the life, not the source of it.  (Biblical Ethics)
I find that inspiring! I desire for my emotions to be “beautiful ornaments” but instead at times they become the source of my confidence or what I  base my decisions on.   Oswald Chamber’s description is another way of defining emotional intelligence; to be fully alive with passion and emotion yet not base one’s decisions or actions on unpredictable, unreliable emotions.
Until kids grow in their emotional intelligence, they tend to be ruled by emotions, acting out impulsively without thinking.  Kids must  gain a good handle on these self management skills  prior to their teen years when greater freedoms are in place such as full access to cell phones and computers, which allow them to communicate  privately, and often impulsively, with peers both day and night. It’s a process that takes time however so start early and look for growth in these areas below which indicate a high emotional intelligence in your child:

  • Comfortable talking about feelings.
  • Emotionally resilient.  Bounces back from discouragement and defeat – not dominated by negative emotions.
  • Able to read non-verbal communication.
  • Balances feelings with reality, reason, and logic.
  • Is interested in other person’s feelings.
  • Is not immobilized by fear or worry.
  • Does not internalize failure.

Following are a few warning signs indicating a low emotional intelligence:

  • Can’t explain why he/she feels without blaming someone else.
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for one’s feelings but blames others for them.
  • Exaggerates or minimizes one’s feelings.
  • Attacks, blames, criticizes, invalidates, judges others.
  • Unable to discern the feelings of others.
  • Is insensitive to the feelings of others, having little empathy or compassion.
  • Lets things build up and then blows up over something relatively minor.
  • Carries a grudge and is unforgiving.
  • Acts out feelings rather than working them out.

What can you do to encourage the growth of emotional intelligence in your kids?

  1. Listen and respond with empathy to what your child says, especially when he is telling you how he feels.  Then parrot or mirror back his feelings so he knows you heard what he had to say.  Empathizing does not mean you agree but that you understand his perspective.  This helps him reflect on his experiences and learn what his triggers are.
  2. Validate emotions.  Disapproving of anger or fear does not make these negative emotions go away.  Instead of saying “that’s not a reason to get so mad” say something like “I can tell you are frustrated that your brother scribbled over your picture.”  The use the opportunity to discuss a better way to respond.  Rather than saying “don’t worry about the test,” say something like “I used to get nervous about math tests too. Tell me what has you worried.” Then used the opportunity to discuss problem solving strategies.
  3. Stay calm when your own emotions grow angry and frustrated over the behavior of your children.  Being verbally harsh when you are angry puts the focus on you and not them.  At the same time, don’t hide how their actions make you feel but acknowledge your displeasure without acting upset. They need to understand how their actions affect others in order to grow empathy.  And they need to see that even difficult feelings can be managed.
  4. Act it out.  Practice (role play) with your child responding in positive ways and solving  issues productively.  When a young child has responded poorly, give them opportunities to try out positive responses.  One way to do this is what I refer to as a “re do” with my grandchildren. Reserved for those times when they speak or act without thinking, I say  something like, “I don’t think you really meant to say (or do) that so let’s try again and say (or do) the right thing this time.”  This allows them to think about their improper response and replace it with a positive one.