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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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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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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When Children Have Big Emotional Outbursts

It's hard for anyone, much less a child, to take constructive feedback and listen to reason or act in a way that is logical when they are flooded with negative emotions.

You likely have personal experience with this—when you've been so upset that you just couldn't think straight.

There is science to this—a reason you cannot think straight when you're flooded with emotions.

The part of your brain that is emotional and reactive is very different than the part of your brain that is systematic and logical. You cannot tap into the logical part of your brain when the emotional, reactive part of your brain has taken over.

Your thoughts and your emotions always match.

When you are experiencing a huge, negative doomsday, destructive emotion, you are naturally flooded with equally catastrophic thoughts.

When you understand that it isn't possible to have a reasonable discussion when emotions are running high, you can change your approach...

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