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What is Emotional Intelligence?
Recent studies have shown that the number one predictor of success in life is high Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of feelings and emotions in one’s self and others, and to use this information to guide thinking and actions.

Getting along with others, developing coping skills, appropriately communicating positive and negative feelings, as well as cultivating empathy, are several components of Emotional Intelligence more crucial to success than standard I.Q.

The focus of Dr. Varady’s work is on helping people raise their own Emotional Intelligence, and on teaching parents to become their child’s Emotional Coach so they can help raise the “E.Q.” of that child.

Do Time Outs Work?
In theory time outs are a good idea. But it’s probably the most misused of all the discipline strategies. If a time out is used as a way for both the parent and the child to “cool down” and soothe difficult feelings, then it makes sense. But if it’s strictly used as a punishment, making a kid sit alone for as many minutes as they are old, the time out is purely punitive and doesn’t teach any coping skills.

If discipline is viewed as everything we do as parents to teach our children how to become good decision makers, even in the face of difficult feelings and difficult times, then sending them “away” when they have big feelings they haven’t mastered appropriate ways of expressing, seems like a failure on our part. I try to help parents to move beyond being punishers and instead become their child’s “Emotional Coach”. Emotional coaches teach coping skills, they don’t just extinguish “misbehavior”.

If you are going to use time outs I recommend that you stay with a young child between the ages of 3 and 4 ½. Before the age of 2 ½, most little ones can’t understand what a time out is.

I get really anxious when my child cries. What can I do?
Many people get anxious when their children cry, for a multitude of reasons. Some have to do with how feelings were handled or avoided in their own childhood. Another reason why it’s so difficult for us to accept our children’s tears is that most of us are operating under the erroneous belief that crying is bad. Crying is actually good for our health, both physical and emotional. When we cry the stress hormone ACTH is released in our tears. This helps explain why people actually feel better after a good cry. In experiments that measure the beneficial outcomes of psychotherapy, those patients who have cried the most (no matter what type of therapy) achieve the greatest therapeutic benefits.

Now this doesn’t mean that any infant, baby, or child should be left to cry alone. It is important that all children have at least one person who they can cry in front of. In this way the child feels safe and loved. So it’s important to pay attention to what you’re feeling when your child begins to cry so you can soothe your own feelings, and then be able to be present as an emotional container for your child.

Breathing slowly and deeply, and remembering the therapeutic benefits of crying, will go a long way in helping you to be there and accept your child’s tears.

What’s the best way to handle tantrums?
Sometimes a child may be teetering on a temper tantrum and the best thing to do is let him have one. It may seem counter intuitive, after all our kid is upset, and we tell ourselves we’re supposed to help him feel better. But rushing in to help a child prematurely may be giving him the dangerous message that we as parents can take away his pain or that it is not O.K. to be feeling big feelings at all. Also, we do not want to rob children of this important opportunity (tantrums) to learn about their big feelings. Children need to learn that it is O.K. to feel and that feelings usually don’t last very long if we respect them. In this way, they get a good release without being frightened by their feelings or worried that their anger or sadness will push us away.

It’s not a good idea to stop their crying before they fully express their feelings. Tantrums have a natural ebb and flow, and they come to an end! And when children have a big release they often come out of it feeling more tranquil and centered.

It is important to remember that we can be compassionate to the child - their wants and their needs, without giving in and letting them have their way. For example when your child has trouble turning off the TV after you’ve asked him several times, you can say, “I know you really, really, want to watch more TV. It must be so hard when you want it so much, but the rule is only half an hour. Let me help you find something fun to do.”

If the tantrums become aggressive such as hitting and biting people, parents can redirect their child from this aggressive behavior to more acceptable expressions of their feelings such as punching a pillow, or stomping their feet. For older kids we can direct the aggression to creative outlets such as drawing a picture or writing a letter about their feelings.

How can I get my child to stop whining?
If children’s psychological needs for attention, power, impact, and belonging aren’t met, or their physiological needs such as tiredness or hunger, aren’t met, they’re more likely to whine and complain. Whining usually begins around age two. This is a time when toddlers are beginning to understand feelings and desires, but because language develops more slowly and they don’t have enough language to express themselves well, they resort to whining.

Giving positive or negative attention will reinforce whining. Here’s what you can do instead: When the child begins to whine you can ask her, “Are you whining?” This will help her to pause and think about how she sounds. Then you can encourage her to use her “regular voice”. And let her know how much you like the sound of her regular voice.

You can also use humor to help diffuse the situation such as when your 3-½ year old is whining saying, “Does anyone hear a squeaky mouse?” You can play a game looking for the mouse and when the child stops whining, “I guess the mouse is gone!”

Sometimes I feel like a cop, telling my kids what to do and what not to do all day. How can I feel more like a parent and less like a police officer?
It’s important to move beyond looking at discipline as being the most important thing we do as parents. That’s a very limited view. Parenting is everything we do to have a good connection and relationship with our children. In your style of attaching to your child, in play with your child, and in the ways you discipline your child, if you could focus on accurately attuning to your child’s feelings ( even when holding firm to a limit), your connection will deepen and the relationship will blossom.

When a child knows or feels that their parent is tuning in to them in a warm way, they feel understood- they feel felt, and it gives them the experience of existing beyond their own body, into someone else’s mind and heart.

Accurately attuning to our children can be viewed as our number one discipline tool, because when a child feels understood by another he is more likely to accept that person’s direction and guidance!

When my kids don’t listen I find myself getting enraged, how can I remain calm?
I think we get ourselves feeling more anxious and angry when we make meaning about ourselves, based on our child’s behavior. In many situations you’re able realize your 2 ½ year old is wired to be autonomous and persistent in pursuing things that look fun and interesting to him, even though it may be contrary to what you want him to do, so you may get annoyed because it’s not following your agenda, but you don’t end up feeling enraged. But at the times when we do become enraged it is usually a signal that what is happening to us now has to do with something in our pasts, often from our childhood. When our child doesn’t listen, we may tell ourselves that we are powerless and unable to have impact. Then we feel enraged. So, when you get enraged you can tell yourself that it probably has something to do with your own early childhood experiences and then you take a moment, breathe, talk to yourself in a different way,- this is the beginning of self-soothing. Only then are you able to be calm, present, and flexible enough to respond effectively with your child.