Secret #11: Be Smart With Your Children's
Feelings An excerpt from "25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers," by Mark
All of you have heard about how important it is
to "honor your children's feelings."
While this seems like a worthy endeavor, it is a rather vague notion and can
easily be dismissed, especially if your child is crying or whining at the
If we look at the particulars and the benefits of paying close attention to your
children's feelings, however, it may become an idea that has a great deal of
We would all like to raise kids who are well-adjusted, happy, and successful.
How can we improve our chances of raising kids who have these qualities?
One place to start is to acknowledge the growing body of evidence which
indicates that a person's "emotional intelligence" is of great importance. It is
becoming more clear that having a high emotional intelligence is a great
predictor of job success and also seems to predict one's success in their
personal life as well.
Emotional intelligence measures qualities like awareness of your own feelings,
the ability to empathize with other people, listening skills, etc. Once we
recognize the importance of these qualities, we can ask how fathers can help to
foster these qualities in their children.
The first step in fostering emotional intelligence in your children is to make a
fundamental shift in your view of parenting. Many fathers see their role as
someone who responds to their children's bad behavior, and attempts to "mold"
them according to certain ideals. Not only can this be ineffective, it can
actually increase the "bad" behavior by giving it extra attention.
A different way of fathering is to commit yourself to helping your children
become more connected to their own emotions and to their families. It recognizes
that your children will be having intense emotional experiences almost every day
of their life. It calls for you to assist your kids in learning how to manage
these powerful emotions and to model this behavior yourself.
It begins in your home every day. It begins when you stop dismissing your kids'
feelings by saying things like, "Come on, it's OK, don't cry," or "You should
want to go to your piano lesson."
It's very difficult to see your kids being sad or angry, and to be patient with
them. But when you deny the validity of their feelings, you further disconnect
your kids from being able to identify and deal with those feelings. In other
words, you lower their emotional intelligence.
To raise the emotional intelligence of your kids, there are a number of things
you can do.
Here are some ideas:
- Start making it a habit to identify your own feelings as well as the feelings
of others. Try not to label people. Instead of saying, "He was a real jerk," you
could say, "He seemed very angry."
- Stop trying to cheer your kids up when they are upset. They need to know their
feelings are being acknowledged, and need to know you are there to listen and
- Do all that you can to keep your own emotional life balanced so that you can
be there for your kids. If you are overwhelmed or off balance, you cannot be a
source of emotional support for your child.
- Be a great listener. When your child has something to say, try to drop what
you're doing and focus completely on what they are saying. Skillful reflection
back of what they have just said to you will show them they've been heard, and
being heard is a great help to kids wrestling with intense feelings.
- Help your kids to identify what they are feeling by being specific with your
questions. It's often helpful to ask something like, "Are you feeling sad?" or
"Are you feeling picked on?" Pay attention to your child's response to your
questions or comments about their feelings. Your goal is to help your child
process their feelings and to work through them, not to fix anything or to tell
them if they got it "right."
One of the most difficult things about being a father is being with children
when they aren't at their best. Whining and crying from children seems to bring
out the worst in many fathers.
The great irony of this is that the more fathers encourage their kids to "get
over" whatever emotional difficulties they're having at the time, the more of
these emotional difficulties will crop up.
Kids who don't feel "heard" emotionally tend to either shut down or to get
Neither of these seems like a very good choice.
Our kids would live in a happier, healthier world if they were raised in an
environment in which their feelings were honored.
When dads learn the secrets of creating that environment they will be an
important part of that process.
About the author: Author Mark Brandenburg, MA, CPCC, is a certified personal and
business coach, husband, and the father of two children. He is a coach to men
who want to have more effective, loving relationships with their family. He
conducts classes for fathers as well as providing individual coaching. Mark has
a Masters degree in counseling psychology and is a former world-ranked tennis
professional. For a twenty-minute complimentary session, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To purchase the full version of "25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers