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

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.

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.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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When the world heard that the Duchess of Sussex was both pregnant and embarking on a whirlwind royal tour involving 76 engagements over 16 days, many mamas around the world were simultaneously thrilled for the Duchess and thankful that they don't have to keep a schedule like hers.

The tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga packs a lot of appearances into little more than two weeks, and while expecting mamas can, of course, continue to work (in most cases) during pregnancy, it did seem like the royal agenda didn't leave a ton of time for rest.

That's why we were happy to hear that, after the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games went way long (like two hours longer than expected) on Saturday night, the Duchess decided not to join Prince Harry at the games on Sunday morning.

Kensington Palace released a statement explaining the absence and acknowledging that there will be some more of them.

"After a busy programme, the duke and duchess have decided to cut back the duchess's schedule slightly for the next couple of days, ahead of the final week-and-a-half of the tour," a royal spokesperson wrote.

Good for her, we say. Because while pregnancy certainly does not mean women should be sidelined for nine months, we also have to admit that we're not superhuman. It's okay if you need a nap, mama.

Markle is reportedly not sick, just really tired, and the palace and Prince Harry are encouraging her to pace herself, and not push herself too hard. It's advice many mamas (pregnant or not) need to hear sometimes.

And so on Sunday, Prince Harry presented the medals for the Invictus Games road cycling event without his wife by his side, but she did make it to the sailing race in the afternoon, joining Prince Harry on a yacht in Sydney Harbor.

On Monday, Prince Harry will make some solo appearances on Fraser Island while Markle rests up.

Pregnancy can be physically demanding. It can be exhausting. By admitting this on the world's stage, by not forcing herself to smile and wave when she really needs to be sleeping, Markle isn't just protecting her health and her baby, she's sending a message to the world:

It's okay to admit we are human, even (and maybe especially) when we are pregnant.

It's no secret that pregnant people often face discrimination in the workplace. Some are forced out of the workforce. Others overcompensate, forcing themselves to commit to gruelling (even dangerous) schedules to prove they're still a valuable employee. Some have no choice but to show up at work and lift heavy boxes, or work overtime, or attend an after-hours meeting even when they are beyond exhausted.

The palace had the power to change Markle's schedule, and employers have the power to change the culture that makes exhausted pregnant mothers (and everyone else) feel they have no choice but to show up early and stay late.

For too many women, asking for reasonable accommodations (like not doing heavy lifting, or limiting the work week to 40 hours) means they put are out of a job at a time when financial security is so important. Lawmakers have the ability to protect pregnant women seeking reasonable accommodations, and employers have the ability to recognize that we are humans before we are workers (or, in Markle's case, royalty).

If the palace (which is not exactly known for admitting the humanity of the mothers in its ranks) can do it, so can the office.

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We're almost there—it's hard to believe but 2019 is just weeks away. And after the ball drops and the calendar flips, mamas who are due in the new year will be counting down the weeks until the can sing Happy Birthday instead of Auld Lang Syne.

If you're due in 2019, you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry 

We'll start with perhaps the most talked about pregnancy in the world right now. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting a baby in the spring of 2019.

The couple embarked on a tour of Australia as the baby news broke, and while UK betters are already putting money on potential baby names, the royal couple haven't publicly discussed the baby's sex or potential name picks yet.

There is no shortage of inspiration though: Along every stop of their post-baby-announcement tour name ideas were offered.

"We've been given a long list of names from everyone," Markle said early in the tour. "We're going to sit down and have a look at them!"

Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher 

Carrie Underwood is also due in the spring of 2019. She and husband Mike Fisher are expecting again after struggling in their journey to have a second child, and the couldn't be happier. The couple's son, 3-year-old Isaiah, is pretty pumped, too, according to his mama.

"Mike and Isaiah and I are absolutely over the moon and excited to be adding another little fish to our pond," Underwood said in a social media video announcing her pregnancy. "This has just been a dream come true," she said.

Bekah Martinez and Grayston Leonard

Bachelor alumn Bekah Martinez is due in January and absolutely thrilled about it, even if the pregnancy was originally a bit of a surprise.

The 23-year-old mama in the making told PureWow she and Leonard had been dating about three months when she found out she was expecting, and while the news may have come a little earlier than she planned, motherhood was always a long-term goal for her.

"It's the one thing that I've known with certainty for so long," she said. "I've always felt sure that I want to be a mom."

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander  

When Kate Upton announced her pregnancy via Instagram back in July, her husband, baseball player Justin Verlander, was quick to chime in with a sweet comment.

"You're going to be the most amazing Mom!! I can't wait to start this new journey with you!" he wrote. "You're the most thoughtful, loving, caring, and strong woman I've ever met! I'm so proud that our little one is going to be raised in this world by a woman like you! I love you so much."

Too sweet. 😍


Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson 

Jessica Simpson's family is growing. She and husband Eric Johnson (along with 6-year-old Maxwell and 5-year-old Ace) are awaiting the newest member of the family due in 2019.

"This little baby girl will make us a family of five," Simpson said in her birth announcement. "We couldn't be happier to announce this precious blessing of life.

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A barking cough echoed over the baby monitor at 5:00 am. My eyes hadn't even opened and in a hoarse morning voice I asked my husband, "You heard that too, right?" Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. But he agreed, and I groaned, knowing what my day—already planned to the hour—would now look like.

My husband is a teacher with a hefty commute and not always a lot of flexibility, so things like sick kids, vet appointments and oil changes usually fall to me. While I'm thankful for a job that essentially allows me to work anywhere—like car dealership waiting areas, my kitchen table or even waiting in line at the grocery store (thanks, email app!)—I still flinch at any disruption from my usual schedule.

I knew the barking baby seal probably meant Croup and because my older kiddo had also been battling a nasty cough and cold, I made plans to take both kids to the doctor. Four hours of meetings scheduled? No problem. I'd make the kids appointments, change my in-person meetings to conference calls, get the kids comfortable with some PBS and pillows and get on with my day working from home.

Two doctors appointments, a breathing treatment (due to unforeseen wheezing) and a trip to the pharmacy later, the girls and I were back home. I had 10 minutes to spare before a call with my manager. Barely breaking a sweat, I thought. Oh, the smug confidence.

I texted a quick update to my mom who'd asked how the girls were. Exasperated, my 3-year-old began pacing in circles in the kitchen. She might have been sick, but somehow her energy never faltered. She gestured with frustration— her palms up and little fingers spread wide, "It's not time for texting, Mommy. It's time for lunch!"

Some people have the type of kids who get colds and melt into the couch for days. They sleep more than usual, they're quieter and they are more than happy to zone out to a movie. I do not have such children.

But she was right. I apologized and sloppily slathered some peanut butter and honey on stale bread ends. Then added bread to the running grocery list.

Five minutes to spare.

As I served up a gourmet lunch, of PB&H and a juice box, I fumbled around to find the conference code when I heard the splat of baby barf hitting the floor (it's possible there is no worse sound.)

"Mommy! Ew! She barfed!"

I made a mental note to talk to the toddler about using the word, 'barf.'

My confident attitude about taking the day head on was now in a swift downward spiral. Sure, I could still join my meeting. I could half listen on mute and soothe the coughing baby with some gentle hip bouncing. But I'd likely have to answer a question and unmute myself, no doubt as the baby started crying again or the dog barked at a UPS truck.

I could make it happen and later face my oldest asking why I'm always on the phone or always texting and never playing. Basically, I could make it work, but not work well.

So, here's what I did.

I sent one final text to my manager that said, "Thought I could make today work but can't. Two sick kids. Need to reschedule."

I then breathed a huge sigh of relief for making one decision and not trying to squeeze in 50 things. I was able to refocus my attention to the little people who actually needed me. My manager sympathetically—and genuinely—responded, "Mom job comes first."

Because let's face it—my 3-year-old doesn't care that my inbox is full and my calendar is back-to-back. All she knows is this: When I'm home she wants to play.

And just because I can work anywhere, doesn't mean I should. I have to learn to stop "making it work." Some days it just doesn't work. I need the reminder to put the phone down. Close the laptop. Focus on what's in front of me. Find a way to shut off the part of my brain that's yelling and anxious about everything I need to do.

Sometimes I need to just s l o w d o w n.

My career isn't going to come to a screeching halt because I spent a few hours or even a few days with sick kids. But I'd like to think my kids will remember the times I spent snuggling and relaxing with them when they were sick. I'd rather they hold on to those memories than ones of me texting and scheduling and over-scheduling and trying to make ALL of it work.

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Motherhood is likely to be the most demanding gig you'll ever have, which is why having the right tools for the job is essential. Of course, even first-time mamas know they'll need a place to sleep, feed and change their newborn—but, there some key ways to set up the baby's room that will make each of those activities less stressful.

Here they are:

1. Re-think lighting

Youthful Nest

An average room has a single ceiling light centered in the middle of the room. Since that isn't where you'll place a changing table to change diapers, rethink how to shed some light on this and other essential caregiver tasks.

First, install a dimmer on the main overhead lighting so you can control the brightness for stealthy middle-of-the-night responsibilities, like feedings and diaper changes. You don't want be attempting these to-dos fumbling around in the darkness nor under bright lights that completely waken you and baby to the point that makes going back to sleep impossible.

Then, add in strategic task lighting. Key spots are near the changing table and next to the glider. If possible, even near the crib. This can be done with floor or table task lamps, preferably with adjustable brightness control, battery-powered motion sensor lights or baby nightlights.

2. Make one space to do multiple tasks

Youthful Nest

Motherhood brings a whole new meaning to the term multitasking. You might be nursing, snacking and emailing all at the same time. Even if you are handling one task at a time, you'll want to have the proper workstation to do your thing.

Wherever you place your glider, be sure to have a decent surface space within arm's reach where you can access items without having to get up from that comfy spot or move baby.

Think about setting up your glider area like you might a work desk. Have baby and mom necessities just a swivel away, including your feeding supplies, books, throws, drink cups, cell phone charger set on a side table or shelf system.

This same principle goes for the changing table area. For safety reasons, you don't want to leave your baby unattended so make sure you can grab the essentials with one hand. (Especially for those moments when the other hand is covered in poo. 💩)

Ensure the changing table area can hold the essential wipes and diapers and a couple sets of clean clothing, rash cream, nasal aspirator, nail clippers, boogie wipes and any other must-have baby toiletries.

3. Create comfort + support for you, mama

Youthful Nest

You deserve to put your feet up, mama. That means you'll want to include a pouf, ottoman or other type of footrest in your nursery. Using one will allow you to elevate your feet during feedings, naps and everything in between.

Your body will go through enough physical wear and tear during pregnancy and postpartum so help your body by using a footrest to improve blood circulation in your legs. Since you'll be sitting for extended periods of time in the glider, putting your feet up will keep those unwanted varicose veins away and could even prevent blood clots.

Like a pouf, a décor pillow isn't just good to bring into the nursery because it looks super stylish. It will actually work hard to support your back during all those feedings and occasional naps you accidentally take in the glider.

Pick one you love the look of, but also be sure that it is big enough and comfortable to lean back on evenly. Longer lumbar pillows are great because they fit nicely in the glider, giving you optimal support.

I would also suggest having a second décor pillow, one that you can tuck under your arm to get the height just right especially while feeding or reading. Too often gliders' armrests are not quite at the perfect height for everyone so a smaller throw pillow can be just enough support.

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