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Want to raise successful kids? Nurture your child’s *emotional* intelligence

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When emotions run high, people do and say things they normally would not. When you're a young child, this is what you do all the time.


Emotional self-regulation, a large component of emotional intelligence, is the ability to manage one's experience and expression of emotions. With practice, children improve their capacity for emotional self-regulation. By age four, most children start to use strategies to eliminate disturbing external stimuli. In other words, they cover their eyes when they're scared and plug their ears when they hear a loud noise.

It's not until age 10 that children consistently use more complex strategies for emotional self-regulation. These strategies can be broken down into two simplistic categories: those that attempt to solve the problem and those that attempt to tolerate the emotion.

When a child can make a change to address a problem, they engage in problem-focused coping by identifying the trouble and making a plan for dealing with it. When they deem the problem unsolvable, they engage in emotion-focused coping by working to tolerate and control distress.

Emotional intelligence

All of these strategies are a part of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence encompasses awareness, understanding, and the ability to express and manage one's emotions.

While the world has been focused on academic achievement in childhood, emotional self-regulation has been largely ignored. This is a poor strategy, given that research suggests emotional intelligence is twice as strong a predictor as IQ of later success.

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Self-control, one piece of emotional intelligence, is particularly important in predicting achievement in children. Children who are able to inhibit impulses (often driven by emotions) and avoid distractions are able to engage in more prosocial behaviors and accomplish their goals.

A particularly powerful study tested school-aged children on self-control and conducted follow-up studies on those children in their 30s. The study demonstrated that self-control predicted success better than IQ, socioeconomic status, and family environment. Those children high in self-control were also healthier, made more money, and were less likely to have criminal records or trouble with alcohol.

Feelings serve a purpose

The first piece of emotional intelligence is awareness and understanding of emotions. We have to understand and accept before we can control and express our emotions. Emotions are not an inconvenience, but rather a piece of human evolution that serves a purpose. The discrete theory of emotions suggests that each of our primary emotions have evolved to serve distinct purposes and motivate our behavior.

Sadness is an emotion uniquely capable of slowing us down, both in thought and motor activity. This can allow us the opportunity to reflect on the source of our emotional upset and take a closer look at the antecedents of it.

In contrast, anger speeds us up, mobilizing intense energy and sending blood to our extremities. While evolutionary, this geared us up for a fight; in modern times, it allows the sustained energy for a fight of a different nature. Anger cues us that our rights have been violated and helps us mobilize to protect against future threats.

Our emotions are to be respected and reflected upon. This includes our children's intense emotions at seemingly non-intense situations. My daughter experiences intense anger when she is not able to do something she had previously accomplished, such as buckling her car seat independently.

In their recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents not use technology as a way to calm or pacify negative emotions in their child. Specifically they expressed “concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation."

Basically, children need the experience of feeling these emotions and practice tolerating them to develop self-control and emotional intelligence.

Increasing your child's emotional intelligence

Because emotional intelligence appears to be such a strong predictor of success, researchers have looked at how caregivers can encourage its development. Specifically, John Gottman observed how parents respond to their children's emotions in an effort to understand how emotional intelligence develops. He found that parents respond to children's emotions one of four possible ways:

Dismissing parents see children's emotions as unimportant and attempt to eliminate them quickly, often through the use of distraction.

Disapproving parents see negative emotions as something to be squashed, usually through punishment.

Laissez-faire parents accept all emotions from child, but fail to help the child solve problems or put limits on appropriate behaviors.

Emotion coaching parents value negative emotions, are not impatient with a child's expression of them, and use emotional experience as an opportunity for bonding by offering guidance through labeling emotions and problem-solving the issue at hand.

Gottman's research shows children of parents who emotion coach are physically healthier, do better in school, and get along better with friends. Emotion coaching parents followed five basic steps to help their children with emotions. Sometimes this can take a great deal of time. Gottman found that emotion coaching parents only followed all five steps 20-25 percent of the time, suggesting there is no need for guilt as no parent can complete this process all the time. The five steps are:

Step 1: Be aware of your child's emotions.

Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and sensitive to the emotions present in their children. They do not require their child to amp up their emotional expression for the feelings to be acknowledged.

Step 2: See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching.

Children's emotions are not an inconvenience or a challenge. They are an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through a challenging feeling.

Step 3: Listen and validate the feelings.

Give your child your full attention while you listen to their emotional expression. Reflect back what you hear, thus telling your child you understand what they're seeing and experiencing.

Step 4: Label their emotions.

After you have fully listened, help your child develop an awareness of and vocabulary for their emotional expression.

Step 5: Help your child problem-solve with limits.

All emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Help your child cope with his or her emotions by developing problem-solving skills. Limit the expression to appropriate behaviors. This involves helping your child set goals and generating solutions to reach those goals.

Sometimes the steps of emotion coaching may go relatively quickly. Other times, these steps may take a great deal of time. Patience will be key. If the problem is big, all five steps don't have to be completed in one interaction.

Nurture yourself the way you would your child

In this time when emotions are running high, nurture yourself the way you would your child. Allow yourself to first feel the feelings, as all feelings serve a purpose. If you're feeling sadness, you may need some time for reflection. If you're feeling anger, you may want to involve yourself in ways to protect your rights and interests in the future.

Walking through the steps of emotion coaching for yourself, when you're ready to do so, is a first step in allowing yourself to be an emotionally intelligent being who is successfully meets your goals. After you have an understanding of your own feelings and goals, you can begin the process of emotion-coaching for your child.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Her songs were the soundtrack to many of our youths, and the visuals from her wedding day are the perfect complement the season of life Michelle Branch and many of her fans are now in.

Branch, 35, recently married Patrick Carney of the Black Keys in a beautiful ceremony celebrating their blended family—and she was a beautiful, breastfeeding bride.

Branch is now a mom of two, sharing her older daughter, 13-year-old Owen, with her former bass player Teddy Landau and her 7-month-old son, Rhys, with her now husband, Carney.

Little Rhys was part of the action on his mom and dad's big day last weekend, and like any 7-month-old, he got hungry and needed to nurse, wedding or no wedding.

"A baby has to eat when a baby has to eat," Branch captioned a photo of Rhys nursing while his mom relaxed in her wedding dress.

Branch's beautiful portrait proves that parents can't—and shouldn't—be forced to leave their party or head to a private room for a breastfeeding break every time baby needs to nurse.

Weddings are a celebration of love, and there's nothing more loving than a mama nourishing her child.

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It's been less than a year since Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, volleyball player Morgan Beck Miller, tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter Emeline Grier after she drowned in a swimming pool. Morgan had just announced a pregnancy a few weeks before losing Emeline, and gave birth to her little brother, Easton Vaughn Rek Miller, back in October.

Now, little Easton is taking Infant Swimming Resource lessons, something his proud mama explained in her Instagram stories this week.

"I cried tears of hope watching my baby boy learning this lifesaving skill," Morgan wrote in a series of Stories explaining that Easton is taking swimming lessons every weekday for 10 minutes.

Since losing Emeline, Morgan has been trying so hard to raise awareness of the fact that drowning is among the leading causes of death in kids under four.

In an interview with the TODAY show last summer the grieving mama asked other families to remember that pool safety isn't just an issue if you have a pool, but if you're visiting anyone who has one. Morgan and her children were visiting friends the day Emeline drowned.

"A child under 30 pounds can drown in 30 seconds. And I just keep counting to 30 in my head. That was all I needed," Morgan said.

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This week she wrote about her gratitude for Infant Swimming Resource lessons, which are designed to give very young children water survival skills. After mentioning how the sight of Easton learning to swim brought her to tears of joy, Morgan wrote: "and then tears of sadness because it was all I had to do to keep my baby girl here."

We hope she's not blaming herself because Emeline's death is so not Morgan's fault—and she's so not alone. That's important to know, and it's also important to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't even recommend swimming lessons until children are a year old.

While ISR lessons like Easton is taking are popular with parents, the AAP states that "there is no evidence to suggest that infant swimming programs for those younger than 1 year are beneficial" when it comes to reducing drowning risks.

Still, parent-and-baby water like Bode and Easton are taking part in can be a fun way to get everyone used to being in pool together and prepare parents and babies for later swimming lessons, which the AAP says can reduce drowning risks.

The AAP wants parents to be aware that swimming lessons at any age can't "drown proof" a child and stresses the importance of constant adult supervision around water (we should always be within arms reach), pool barriers and CPR training for parents.

Tips to reduce the risk of childhood drowning from the AAP:

  1. If you have a pool, install a "4 foot, 4-sided, isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and the rest of the yard with a self-closing, self- latching gate". Also keep "a telephone and rescue equipment approved by the US Coast Guard (eg, life buoys, life jackets, and a reach tool, such as a shepherd's crook)" by the pool.
  2. When visiting a home or business with a pool or hot tub, parents "should carefully assess the premises to ensure basic barriers are in place, such as sliding door locks and pool fences with closed gates in good working order and ensure that supervision will be consistent."
  3. Learn CPR.
  4. During a pool party, parents and adults should take turns tapping in as the "designated watcher" and fully focus on the kids playing in or around a pool.
  5. If swimming at a beach or lake, choose a location with lifeguards and designated areas for swimming.
  6. Teach kids to stay away from bodies of water in all seasons, even winter when they are covered in ice.

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Thanks to the phones at our fingertips and the cars on our roads, today human beings can do so much in a day without actually moving very much at all, and we know this is having a negative impact on our health.

The World Health Organization is worried about the sedentary habits of today's children, and this week it released new guidelines suggesting kids under 2 should not have any screen time at all. According to the WHO, infants and 1-year-olds should not have any screen time at all, and 2-year-olds should only have an hour or less per day.

This is in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines, which recommend no screen time other than video chatting for children under 18 months, but parents should view these guidelines as part of a bigger picture of childhood health, and not worry too much if their baby has seen a few episodes of Peppa Pig.

While the WHO report spawned a flurry of headlines focused on the elimination of all screen time for infants, the screen time suggestions are just one bit of 17-page report called "Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age".

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This is not so much about taking away screens as it is about adding activity.

"What we really need to do is bring back play for children," says Dr. Juana Willumsen, an expert in childhood obesity and physical activity with the WHO. "This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep."

So before parents start feeling bad because they've breastfed their baby in front of the TV, or put on some Paw Patrol so that they could load the dishwasher, it's super important to have the full context. Yes, we should limit screen time, but we should also limit all kinds of sedentary time infants and toddlers are spending strapped into strollers, chairs and swings. Lifestyle patterns are established early in life, so we really do want to encourage our kids to move their bodies as much as possible (which will help them get better quality sleep at night).

This is about movement, not about demonizing screen time, and some doctors disagree with the WHO's guidelines, suggesting there should be more room for parental flexibility.

Earlier this year the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK recently released its first guidance on screen time, which did not take such a black-and-white approach to the issue.

The RCPCH didn't ban screen time for infants or young kids, but rather suggested that parents use their own judgment and take care to support an active lifestyle that values movement, socialization and quality sleep. The organization found it was "impossible to recommend age-appropriate time limits" because "there is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age."

Basically, the top pediatricians in the UK recognize the need for nuance in the conversation about childhood screen time. We absolutely should not be plopping babies down in front of the TV for 8 hours a day, but don't beat yourself up if you didn't cut the cable the instant your baby was born, mama.

Parenting is about more than following rules—it's about doing what's best for your family. It's important to know why the WHO is making these recommendations so that we can make the best decisions we can, but it's also important to recognize that parenting isn't a one-size-fits-all deal.

For some parents, ditching TV altogether is the best thing for their family.

But if you felt like you had to put on Baby Shark today so that you could drink your coffee in peace, that's okay, too, mama.

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Every time Amy Schumer posts something to Instagram we're expecting a birth announcement, but in her latest Instagram post, Schumer let the world know she's still pregnant, and unfortunately, still throwing up.

Schumer made her "still pregnant" announcement in a funny Instagram caption, noting, "Amy is still pregnant and puking because money rarely goes to medical studies for women," suggesting that hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of morning sickness that's seen her hospitalized multiple times during her pregnancy doesn't get as much attention as conditions that impact men.

She's made a joke out of it, but she's not wrong. Gender bias in medical research is very real, and something that the medical community has just recently begun to address.

And while more people suffer from erectile dysfunction than hyperemesis gravidarum, let's consider that five times as many studies are done on erectile dysfunction than premenstrual syndrome (PMS) when about 19% of men are impacted by erectile dysfunction but 90% of women experience symptoms related to PMS.

Schumer's point is important not just for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, but for women and vulnerable pregnant people with all sorts of under-studied and under-diagnosed conditions. The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and bias in medicine is part of the problem.

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