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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.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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