The development of a healthy child includes more than his physical development. For children, physical development is often easy; it’s the emotional, social and cognitive developments that typically require effort. And it is you, the parent, who holds the best position to lead your child down a path toward positive development. For you, that means training your child to understand his feelings and make good calculated decisions.
1. Emotional Intelligence
In contrast to intelligence in the form of what psychologists call the g-factor, or general factor, which is measured by IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, and is primarily genetic, intelligence with regard to emotional control is a malleable part of a child’s personality. This type of intelligence, which psychologists call EQ, or Emotional Quotient, is the understanding and regulation of emotions in the self and in others. A child with a high EQ can monitor and recognize her emotions before she acts on them, making her less impulsive and more responsible. Parents play a large role in training their children’s EQ. The primary tool for such training is communication, an integral part of child-rearing. When communicating with your child, you exchange and share emotions with her, simultaneously showing her how to respond to certain feelings. Parents who wish to nurture EQ in their children should recognize emotional situations as opportunities with which to share feelings. A mom who dismisses the death of her child’s pet goldfish, for example, shows her child that feelings such as grief are not so important. Instead, an EQ-conscious parent will engage her child in discussion, remembering her own first experiences with losing a pet and how she overcame the related emotions.
A child is born into a world in which they did not originally belong. He must find his own way in this world, which means finding a sense of self. Unfortunately, many parents tend to disparage their children when they witness misbehaviors. This habit can negatively affect the development of a child’s self-esteem. The research of John Gottman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington and founder of the The Gottman Institute, shows that criticism and blame are major obstructions to the psychological growth of a child. In his book, “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” Gottman explains how children growing up with critical parents tend to perform worse in school, experience more stress and engage in more misbehavior than do children growing up in supportive families. Parents who are conscious of the negative effects that criticism can have on children should focus on correcting actions rather than on trying to change the child’s personality. When your child feels frightened and runs away, for example, avoid placing blame on his 'cowardice' or telling him to 'man up.' Instead, explain to him that running away won’t solve his problems, and discuss with him how to better deal with related fears in the future. In this way, not only do you avoid attaching the negative behavior to your child’s personality, you also teach him how to make good decisions.
The development of self-control doesn’t magically come with age. It comes with good parenting practices in combination with the natural urges of children. One particularly useful parenting technique in this regard is the setting of limits. Some parents have a hard time setting limits due to the negative emotions that come along with them. No parent enjoys disappointing or punishing her child. But without limits, your child will have little practice in self-control. Teach your child that limits are ways of canceling out the wrong ways of solving problems. A limit on hitting, for example, hints to your child that controlling her anger and using words is more beneficial than harming that classmate who stole her toy.
To many parents, the term 'child-rearing' excludes education. After all, there are schools for that. But the way you interact with your child, from the games you play to the subjects you chat about, shows your child what’s important in life. If all your games and chats are about fighting and war, for example, you shouldn’t be surprised to raise a child who’s more interested in playing violent video games and picking fights at school than he is in gaining his high-school diploma. A parent can help her child’s cognitive development by consistently engaging him in cognitively intensive tasks, such as games and chat topics that require thought.