The Single Most Important Thing to Teach Children About Emotional Intelligence

We all want to raise children who have emotional intelligence, but despite the fact that we spend about 13,000 hours in school just to receive our high school diploma, most of us never learned the basics of emotional intelligence.

We learned that the capital of Illinois is Springfield, even though Chicago makes more sense. We learned how to make potato batteries, which has come in handy exactly zero times. And we learned about all the movers and shakers of the Renaissance, including but not limited to Francesco Petrarca, whose major accomplishment was writing a collection of poems about Laura, a woman he loved but could not be with.

Yet, most of us don’t know much about emotional intelligence, despite the fact that 100 percent of us will face obstacles, and despite the fact that resilience skills are necessary life skills.

(The same cannot be said of learning Hot Cross Buns on a recorder.)

In fact, if we are asked rudimentary questions about emotional intelligence, most of us...

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Do This At the End of Every Relationship

Often, when our relationships end, we feel so awful and emotionally exhausted that extricating ourselves from the situation with a modicum of dignity intact is all we can muster.

However, we can turn even the worst relationships into valuable lessons if we "mine" them.

Mining a relationship is the process of considering what you learned from it and extracting the lessons you will use going forward.

Every relationship—whether it is with a friend, a partner, or a boss— gives us valuable information about who we are, what we value, and how we want our future relationships to be.

When we ask the right questions, we can find the value in even the worst relationships:

"How did the relationship make you feel emotionally, and how do you want to feel in future relationships?"

"Did that relationship bring out any behavior on your part that you would rather not repeat?"

"What needs were not getting met?"

"What values were not being lived?"

"What strengths were you not using in that...

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The First Thing to Teach Your Kids About Emotional Intelligence

Consider the messages that kids get about “controlling” their emotions …

  • "Stop being so angry!”
  • "Control yourself!”
  • "Quit whining!”
  • "There’s no reason to be so upset!”
  • “Why are you so sad?!”

Before they can truly be in control of their emotions, though, kids need to learn something that most adults don’t even know ...

They need to know what causes their emotions.

Most of us think the situation causes an emotion. If we are bored, for instance, we think it is because we are stuck in our homes and forced to social distance.

But the truth is that it is not the situation that causes us to suffer. It is our thoughts about the situation that cause us to suffer.

Let me repeat that: Our thoughts cause our emotions.

For example, imagine that your friend snaps at you.

If you think, “Wow, my friend must be having a bad day. This situation is tough, and we are all having a hard time,” you will likely feel...

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Tired of snapping when you need your kids to HURRY? Try this …

Instead of feeling guilty for snapping at your kids when you need them to HURRY, try this …

Communicate to them in advance about your need to be on time.


Say something like:

“I have a lot of things on my plate. Sometimes I feel anxious about getting places on time, and I worry that if I miss a deadline, the entire day will fall apart. Getting places on time helps me stay in control of all the balls I’m juggling. When I feel anxious about getting places on time, I tend to snap at the people slowing me down. That’s why I sometimes yell at you when I am trying to get you to move faster to get out of the house. I am working on staying calm. You can help me by getting dressed and out of the house quickly.”

Even if you do snap at them later (after all, most kids don’t exactly have a sense of urgency), you will feel better about how you have communicated with your children. And as they grow older, they will better understand you, and they will be more...

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Why Do People Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Have you ever considered some of your maladaptive coping skills? You might turn to drugs or alcohol after a bad day. You might do a little retail therapy after a big fight with your spouse.

Do you know WHY you do this?

It’s often because you want to feel better immediately. You want those bad-feeling feelings to go away, if only for a few minutes or hours.

And who could blame you? Of course you want those bad-feeling feelings to go away.

But be careful that you do not brush your negative emotions under the rug permanently. Being distracted in healthy ways, like watching a funny video or going for a run, is a good way to relieve yourself from a flood of emotions, but ONLY TEMPORARILY. Your bad-feeling feelings will always find a way to rear their heads if you try to avoid them.

It is helpful to use an analogy to explain this. Imagine that your body starts feeling a little bit achy, so you take a painkiller. The painkiller makes you feel better almost immediately, but the effects are...

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Positive Thinking Is Rubbish (Sometimes)

From the time we are children, “positive thinking” is pounded into us.

We are bombarded with sentiments like:

  • “Look on the bright side!"
  • "Don’t be sad."
  • "Stay positive."
  • "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

The sentiment behind these pep-talks is admirable: A lot can be said about focusing on positive, empowering thoughts.

But the truth is that forcing positive thoughts when you feel lousy doesn’t work.

In fact, it can actually make you feel worse.

In one study, subjects were told of an unhappy event, but then instructed not to feel sad about it. They were, in essence, told to stay positive.

Guess what happened? 

They ended up feeling worse than subjects who were told of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel.

That’s right ...

If you are told to feel better when you aren’t ready to feel better, you end up feeling worse.

We call this the “tyranny of positive thinking.”

Sometimes, it can feel...

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The Ten Words to Stop an Argument

When you find yourself trying to resolve a conflict that seems to be spinning out of control, stop and ask the other person this question ...

"What do you need so that this relationship feels good?"

You know what it feels like to be in a conflict that is heading south, or spinning out of control.

It turns into a he said/she said. One person says, “You did this,” and the other person says, “Oh, well you do this.”

You can feel it when it happens.

To stop this downward cycle, ask this simple question: “What do you need so that this relationship feels good?”

It’s likely that the other person will respond with something like, “I need for you to stop being a jerk,” or some other insulting statement that blames you.

Instead of retaliating, take a breath, and clarify by speaking about your needs with non-blaming “I-statements."

Say something like,

“I need security in my life. I need to feel stable. Sometimes when you spend...

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What to Say When Your Kids Are Rude

We recently received some pushback about an article in which we advised parents to set boundaries around the way they let their children talk to them and behave toward them. We appreciate the feedback and the opportunity to clarify our advice …

In this article, we gave parents advice for addressing children who are rolling their eyes or generally being rude and snarky. We suggested that parents can say something like ...

“I don’t know if you realize this, but you have been rolling your eyes at me a lot. It doesn’t make me feel good, and you should know that it makes me want to stop spending time with you. What exactly do you need from me that would make our relationship work better for you?”

Some readers worried that implementing our advice could make their children feel abandoned or cause them to become “people pleasers.” 

Our response is this: We are inviting you to disengage from disrespectful behavior. We are not...

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Are Emotions Our Enemies?

From an early age we are taught that emotions are inappropriate, embarrassing, something to be hidden.

  • “Boys don’t cry.”
  • “Anger isn’t ladylike.”
  • “Don’t be sad.”

To show great emotion is a kind of failure—a character flaw, even, as if your big emotions somehow make you not as strong as you should be. To be called “emotional” is an insult.

On the other hand, to be called “an intellectual” is a compliment. We are taught that intellect is king—that a human’s greatest asset is his or her ability to think rationally and logically.

We are told that there is nothing more important than doing well in school, and so, we grind away at homework—acquiring knowledge, learning how to think, and trying to improve our intellectual ability.

We are told that our emotions will prevent us from thinking clearly—that they should not be allowed to distract us from the task at hand.

And so, we learn...

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How Do Your Kids Come Across to Others (& Does It Matter)?

Plenty of people are surprised by how they come across to other people. Insecurity can come across as arrogance, shyness as aloofness, introversion as rudeness. We would all benefit from knowing the answers to a few questions about how we are received:

  • “How do I come across to others?”
  • “What does my body language convey?”
  • “Am I a good listener, or do I do most of the talking?”
  • “What is the general tone of the words that come out of my mouth?”
  • “What is the theme of the topics I typically discuss?”
  • “Do people think I am obnoxious or mean when I am trying to be funny?”
  • "What goes through my mind when I meet someone new, and is that helping me project the attitude I want to project?" 

Your children should know how they come across to others, too, particularly as they become teenagers and then adults. When they think about how they are received by other people, they can decide whether they want to change...

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