by Cheryl Jackson Monday September 17, 2007

I was brave this week. I actually took a quiz to see how "emotionally aware" I am.

Let's just say I wish I'd done better. After all, I am my children's emotional coach, according to John Gottman. He wrote "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" and he says parents are key to helping their children manage their emotions.

On Your Voice, we explored EQ, or emotional quotient, also known as emotional intelligence.   Our experts said that EQ is as important as IQ in determining your child's success. That's big. They also said that before you can help your children know their emotions, you really have to know your own.

Okay. So where do we start? How do we, as parents, know if we're emotionally literate?

That's where my quiz came in (taken from Gottman's book). I now know, for instance, that there are many kinds of anger, many kinds of sadness, and that I don't always know how to distinguish among them (especially those nasty anger ones). So I need to become more aware of my own feelings. Then I can be more aware of my children's feelings.

It makes so much sense. So does Gottman's simple 5-step method to becoming your child's emotional coach.

1. Become aware of your child's emotion (that's where the self-awareness quiz comes in)

2. Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching (rather than a fight)

3. Listen empathetically, and validate your child's feelings (repeat it back to them - "You're feeling sad, aren't you?")

4. Help your child to label the feeling (again, you have to know what these feelings are called yourself)

5. Set limits while you explore strategies to solve the problem (in other words, being emotionally literate is not an excuse for bad behaviour).

I know, from experience, that it's not always easy to recall the five steps in the heat of the moment, but it's worth a try. It could make all the difference in how your kids manage school, work, and life.