As a good parent you've probably put a lot of thought on how to raise a kind, smart daughter, but have you honestly thought much about her emotional intelligence? If not, it's time, because research shows emotional intelligence is more important to success than IQ.
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, means being aware of both your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. It also means controlling those emotions and using them to connect with others.
Isn't this what every good parent wants for their child? Here are a few ways to help you develop this ability in your daughter:
1. Let her play by her own rules
All day, your daughter's life is filled with rules.
"You can't have dessert until you eat your broccoli."
"Put your coat on. It's cold outside."
Those rules are obviously important, but playtime should be free from rules. Playtime is her kingdom of imagination. She is the queen, and in her kingdom she should be the rule maker.
Playing like this develops leadership and problem solving skills, and the creativity promotes healthy brain development, according to Denise Daniels, a child development expert who specializes in the emotional and social development of children.
Let her choose what she plays and how she plays it.
2. Label her emotions with words she knows already
It wasn't until I was 20 that I realized the squirmy, uneasy feeling that would sometimes creep up on me had a name: anxiety. Learning its name gave me power. The power to identify triggers, develop healthy outlets and select a better response.
Teach your daughter to label her emotions before her twenties. Ask her questions about the sensations she's feeling, then tell her the name for those sensations. By teaching her to label her emotions you're giving her the tools she needs to figure out her triggers and responses.
3. Show what emotions look like in someone else
Learning to label her emotions is easier for her if you are explaining your emotions too - both big and small. When you feel sad, she will learn to see what body language you put off with that emotion. Identifying positive emotions is just as important as identifying the negative ones.
4. Never blame your emotions on her
Your emotions are your own. No one can make you feel a certain way. You (and your brain) decide how to feel. As you discuss your emotions with your daughter, make sure you're never blaming her.
5. Don't trivialize her feelings
It's damaging to children when you push aside something that triggers a deep emotion in them. Telling your daughter she shouldn't feel sad when her brother hurts her feelings or shouldn't be scared of the dark isn't helpful. It makes her feel like there is something wrong with her.
6. Think before you speak
Often those emotionally invalidating comments come in the heat of the moment before you have time to filter your response. Pause before you say something that could be hurtful. Slow down and form a healthy response to her misbehavior rather than angrily demanding, "What were you thinking!?"
7. Figure out the why behind her actions
When your daughter is naughty, figure out which emotions led to her actions. Was she being devious intentionally or just bored? Was she mad at her sister or scared? When you understand the cause, you can choose a more appropriate way to discipline her (if needed).
8. Explain her consequences
Your daughter needs to know she is in trouble because of what she did - not because of how she felt. Make sure she knows it's OK to have those feelings. Part of emotional intelligence is identifying those feelings and then dealing with them in a healthy way. She'll eventually learn to take different actions when those feelings creep in again.
9. Remember, she deserves respect too
In everything you do, treat her with respect. She is a little human. You don't like being ignore when you're talking, and neither does your daughter. When she speaks, pay attention.