120. Teaching our kids emotional intelligence

I have had some great questions on how to teach our kids emotional intelligence – and I will answer them in this episode. I will also run through the 5 steps I use (and learned from John Gottman) on how to walk our kids through their emotions and misbehaviours – also called emotion coaching. 

This episode follows up on 119, about tolerating the emotions in ourselves and in our kids. 

The 5 steps to teaching our kids emotional intelligence,

as I have learned through the work of John Gottman (my summary of his book is right here

1. Awareness

It takes time and practice to observe how our kids might be feeling. Each of our kids will act a little differently depending on how they are feeling. Boredom looks different in each of our kids. 

Emotional awareness is the foundation for understanding what is happening for us internally – because all of this will have an external result in our lives. 


2. Emotions are a chance for connection

This feels really tough at the moment when our kids are pouting or blaming or having an emotion that is tough for us as moms to tolerate. 

I see these times as a situation where my kid has a GAP in their skills and they need to know I’m here to walk them through it. 

It is important to consider that our kids are at different skills and needs depending on their age. 

  • How I use bedtime as the time of time day to connect with my kids on their emotions. 


3. Label the emotions

Awareness of a specific emotion is important because it helps us narrow down the thoughts and situations that are causing it. Even the moms I coach are a bit unaware of what emotion they could be feeling.

This can be done with a ‘check-in’ in lots of fun and easy ways. This is a great habit to teach your kids in becoming more emotionally aware. 

There is a science behind the process of labelling our emotions – affect labelling and ‘name it to tame it’.


4. Empathy

I think empathy can transform your parent-child relationship, episode 84

We think that empathy might coddle or kids or keep them wallowing in it – but it is the opposite. It helps them feel seen, helps them allow the emotion in order to move through it. 

Empathy is not a form of reward or punishment and it does not excuse misbehaviour. 

A very sweet TedTalk to have empathy in listening to our kids. 


5. Set limits and problem solve

This is often where we START to deal with the issue. But all the other 4 steps can make this job so much easier for our kids and for us as moms. 

It means we address HOW the situation was handled, what happened from the feelings our kids had. 


  1. You don’t have to deal with it in the moment, come back to it when you are no longer in a stress response and when they are no longer in a stress response (because stress highjacks our intentions, episode 113)
  2. This can be a conversation you bring your kid into problem-solving. It helps teach them the skills of solving their own problems


Answering the questions that were sent to me on teaching kids emotional intelligence. 

  • When you as a parent are practicing EI and you ignore/don’t acknowledge bad behaviour for the purpose of disengaging or de-escalating a situation, can that be perceived by your child as approval to act that way?
  • How can you acknowledge negative feelings without reinforcing a negative mindset? Like if your child is complaining about something how do you validate their feelings of disappointment/etc without encouraging more complaining and negativity?
  • How do you empathize authentically when you really don’t care that “the pink spoon is dirty”?


Getting more support on being an emotionally intelligent mom teaching her kids emotional intelligence

I will be teaching a workshop for moms on June 3rd 2021. Make sure you are on the Simple Saturdays email to get notification on that. 

PS. Simple Saturdays isn’t like other email! It is FUN email – it comes out twice a month and has tips, personal stories, decluttering photos, and actionable ideas 

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The hygge vibe that CANDLES bring into my life. 

You don’t need a special occasion, just light them when you have tacos next time. 

I love to light a candle once we are done with Saturday morning chores. 


T0 find the show notes: go to simpleonpurpose.ca and click LISTEN, all the shows and notes and links are there for you. 


mom and son smiling at one another text overlay reads "teaching our kids emotional intelligence (5 steps)"


Full transcript 

Hey, friends, it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and life coach from simpleonpurpose.ca. Welcome to the Simple on Purpose podcast.

We’re gonna jump right into this one because this is part two, following up on episode 119. I haven’t given it a title yet, but that episode, I would go back and listen to it. It is all about our tolerance of emotions in our children. And the value of bringing emotional intelligence into our parenting can bring into our kids lives, and really our lives.

So this episode is about the steps, the steps for emotional intelligence. And I’m going to answer some of your great questions at the end that were sent in to me. So john Gottman has written raising an emotionally intelligent child. I’m going to link to my summary on that book that I wrote some years ago. And I am taking this information from what I’ve learned in his book, and in his course on emotion coaching, on the five steps, the five main steps, I’m going to run through them here for you guys.

The first one is awareness, awareness of emotions. And I think what’s really fascinating is that I noticed my three different kids will act in three different ways when they’re experiencing a certain emotion. They handle boredom differently. They handle the feeling of loneliness differently, they all handle it differently. And I’ve just learned from watching them, just what when they’re doing things that are irritating others or causing drama in my life, I know that there’s some kind of emotion that it’s stemming from. And so I just tried to start putting the pieces together. And over the years, I think that I’ve started to be able to read them read, how they’re acting, what they’re doing, what they’re saying, and how they’re feeling. And the more you do this, the more you can catch things at a lower level, before things start to escalate. Because just like, just like us, we have all day long, low level emotions that are starting to just brew up and then they just pile up and pile up. And then they feel extreme. And now we’re acting in more extreme ways. And then it can be really hard to unpack what are what we’re feeling, why we’re feeling it, what we’re why we’re handling our lives like this. So this is a process of practicing, practicing it in ourselves as well as moms, we want to be watching our emotional thermometer so to say throughout the day, because we are acting based on how we feel. And so much of the problems in our life, and the problems that our kids are making for themselves are because of how they’re acting. So when we start to catch these feelings earlier and manage these feelings, we can start to show up in healthier ways in our home. This is emotional intelligence, emotional self control is a big part of this. So emotional awareness. Step one, what are you feeling? And how is this making you act? I think that’s a really good add on questions that we can help older kids talk about, and that we can think of in ourselves like how am I acting when I feel stressed, most moms know their stress behaviors. So we can start to notice all these behaviors are coming up, I’m stressed, let’s dial it back. Let’s figure out what’s going on. So emotional awareness is the foundation for understanding what’s going on for you internally. And remember, everything internally is going to have an external result. So this is why it’s so important. And it’s a huge component of coaching, understanding what’s going on in your thoughts and your feelings in your body. Because that impacts how you’re acting. are you yelling? are you shouting? Are you disciplining? Are you shutting down, all of this comes from how you’re feeling inside. So pay attention to that.

The next step is understanding that emotions are a chance to connect. And if this doesn’t feel totally false in the moment, I don’t know what else would, because when your kids being a monster, or they’re blaming you, or they’re just so angry with everyone, whatever emotion, maybe there’s a hard emotion that you don’t have a big tolerance for your kids. The last thing you want to do is connect with them, right? And the idea that this is actually a great chance to step in, and let them know that like, I still got you like I can handle you, I’m here, I’m here for this. I’m here to walk you through this. And it’s not going to be like this every time. Let’s start working on this, to see that as an opportunity. I think that’s that’s huge, right? Because I always look at this moment, as my kids have a gap. They have a gap in their skills that need support. And I don’t think this means we always go into these things when they’re yelling at us and I’ll get to that later. But to just see this as a moment, and a chance that our kid actually needs us and we can connect with them. Gottman outlines here that it’s really important to have different expectations for different ages. Because emotional intelligence and a three year old looks a lot differently than it does in a 13 year old right. Like when they are smaller. We are just working on the basics of emotional regulation like man and Those big fields. So if you would like three to six year old, this feels accurate because they have big fields. And they’re not always expressing themselves in healthy ways. And then we move on to problem solving later in the game as the kids get a little bit older, and they’re able to kind of manage their life needs. Now they need support in solving their problems. And then moving forward with that and solving problems and bringing their emotions into the mix at the same time. A time of day that I personally love to do this is bedtime. And in our house, we take mean Connor each take about 15 to 20 minutes with each kid or just rotating for like 45 minutes an hour, between seven and eight every night. I wouldn’t give this up or anything. I know, it’s a big commitment. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything at this point. We sit with them we read, I asked them about their day, I asked them about their friends in school and what they’re worried about. And I always ask them Do you need my help with anything. And it’s taken a bit to establish this conversation. But now at least the older two because my kids are 10, eight and sexy older to build, they’ll engage with it, they’re talking about their lives with me, they’re talking about the problems that they need help with.

The third step is to label the emotions. And there are lots of ways to do this. I think this is something that you probably have noticed has been brought in to school, in kindergarten in grade one. They are learning to identify different emotions, they look at pictures of faces, they draw pictures of faces, they draw different colors. And just the more conversations you have about this, in general, I think it’s just easier in the moment to help your kids label their emotions. And I think this is great for adults as well. Because there’s so many moms I coach where I ask them how they’re feeling. And sometimes they’re just at a total loss. And they can tell me like, well, not good. They can’t pinpoint the feeling. They’re maybe not even aware of all of the options out there. If you’ve ever looked at a feelings chart, you’re like, oh, wow, there’s a lot of options. And sometimes I can really identify with some of these. So just bringing that into the conversation, I had a question about how to practice emotional intelligence daily, kind of like brushing your teeth, like a daily habit, something simple. And I think this is a great opportunity, a temperature check in just to check in. It could be in the morning, it could be in the evening, my son is in grade four. And he tells me that his teacher does this. He she asks the kids, what color are you today? What color are you feeling? And it’s not about her solving their problems. It’s just a time for each kid to check in. And maybe she’s gauging the range of the class to know where people are at. But it’s just really powerful because it starts the practice of being emotionally aware. So why should our kids label their emotions, there is actual science behind it. Labeling your emotions called affect labeling, it helps you distance from the experience of it, it makes it less. What’s that word, like when things are flame inflamed, it makes it less inflamed. And there’s a cute saying that’s come from the science called name it to tame it. So you get some distance of it. And the more you know that feeling, the easier it can be to pinpoint the reason. So let’s say I might be feeling sad, or regret, or lonely. And all of these in my body might kind of feel a little bit different. But I recognize they’re all sort of like a heaviness like a kind of a depressive state. But I want to know which one it is. Because each one of those emotions come from a different set of thoughts and circumstances. So I want to really be able to pinpoint that emotion and label it within myself. I can’t tell you how many fights this would have solved in my marriage earlier on, if I was able to pinpoint an emotion that I was feeling so I can investigate what was behind it. Instead of taking that emotion and doing something called emotional reasoning where we say I’m feeling bad, so my life must be bad. No, no, no, let’s dial it back. Let’s go way back.

The fourth step is empathy. And I cannot say enough about empathy. If you go back to Episode 84, how empathy can transform your parenting relationship. I have a lot more to say about this. We think that empathy will coddle our kids or it will make them wallow but it does the opposite. It makes them feel seen. It gives them permission to have an emotion. And it’s just like expressing empathy between friends or spouses or partners. Empathy creates safety and connection. If I tell if I come to my husband, and I tell them how upset I am, and they’re okay, I used to be a health inspector. And one time this food this restaurant owner was screaming at me, he was inebriated. And it was it was a really tough experience and if I come home and I’m like all upset about this, and if he said things like it’s part of the job get over it or or what did you do? Or he was probably having a hard day, then instantly I feel invalidated. Maybe I even feel totally out of line for having those emotions. I definitely feel dismissed. directed to him and whatever he’s going to say to me now, it’s gonna fall on deaf ears. And our kids are the same. Empathy does not reward their emotions. It does not punish their emotions. It just says to them. Oh, so you’re angry with your brother that he got to go to his friend’s house, but you didn’t? Yeah, I understand that. It doesn’t say, Well, why didn’t you get to go? Like, what were you doing that you weren’t allowed? And it doesn’t talk them out of it. It doesn’t tell them? Oh, well, you can go you go all the time. And and this is so fun for him and we should be happy for them. It doesn’t do that. It doesn’t excuse misbehavior. Remember, you can feel mad, but you cannot scream at me. You can feel totally sad, but you cannot slam doors. It’s just about making space and and listening. Like, okay, I hear you, you’ve been heard, you’ve been seen your emotion makes sense. If I understand what it’s like to be a six year old boy, whose older brother is gone, and he can’t go, that will make me angry too. I’m going to link to a really sweet TED talk in the show notes about having empathy with our kids and making a space to just listen to them. It’s super, super sweet.

And the fifth step is to set limits and problem solve. And you know, what’s interesting is that, at least for me, when I started parenting, this is where I would start, I would start with the limits, maybe not even the problem solving. So now I hope you can see that the steps ahead can actually make this job so much easier. And not just easier for your kids, but for us as moms too. Because if I’m being mindful of my emotions through the day, and the hard one comes up like overwhelm, I can start to notice, oh, it’s overwhelmed. Here it is what’s going on, I can start to have empathy for myself. And then I can decide what I want to do about it. Instead of just like what I used to do, letting the emotions pile up into this huge mountain and feeling frazzled, and just trying to make it go away with unhealthy coping habits. So setting limits, it means that we address how the situation was handled. So we’ve talked about the empathy, we’ve addressed the feelings. Now let’s address what happened from those feelings. Because it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to hit your sister. And depending on the age, depending on the situation, there’s different conversations you can have with your kids, like, how do you feel about what happened? How do you want to fix this? What will you do next time? What do you think your consequences should be? And I think it’s important to remember two things. One, is to do this from a calm and a clean place. So if that means you tell your kids I’m, I have some big emotions about this, I’m stressed out by what’s happening here, or I don’t have time to deal with this. We’re coming back to this. We’re gonna come and talk about this later. And following up on that for sure, right. We don’t want to give consequences when we are stressed. And we are panicked panic parenting will not be parenting on purpose, we will not be parenting as the moms we want to be when we parent from panic and stress. Talk to your kids about this when they’re calm to give them a chance to calm down. If you want to hear about more about how stress hijacks our brains, go listen to Episode 113 on stress and thriving. The other thing that I want to just emphasize here, and I think this is just a personal preference and parenting, it’s my personal preference is that I always hear them out, I’m going to hear out their side, I’m going to hear out their ideas, what do they think would solve this problem? Because I want to hear sometimes they have good ideas, sometimes they have good solutions for the problems that I don’t have. And I want to give them the skill of being part of that conversations instead of it having having it handed down to them. I want them to start learning how to solve their own problems in the world.

So those are the five steps. I want to answer a couple of questions and tell you later how you can get some more in depth support on emotional intelligence with your kids.

The first question, I’m going to paraphrase it, so if your kids doing something bad, and you kind of ignore that, for the sake of de escalating the situation, will your child perceive that as an approval to act in that negative way?

And I really think this depends on the age of your kids, the frequency of this behavior. And we all hear the term bad behavior that you’ve used in the question like it’s bad behavior. But we all have different ideas in our mind of what that might be. But I do agree in the moment, let’s focus on de escalating, let’s lower the stress response. Let’s get everyone to accomplish. But what I would definitely encourage and I think you’ll find it helpful to make sure that your kid isn’t interpreting this as approval is to come back at this at a later time when you’re both calm. And I do this often, especially with my six year old I it’s like a quiet moment. And I’ll be like, hey, earlier this happened. And then I noticed you did this. How do you feel about it? And first, he’s like, Can we just not talk about this? And I’m like, No, this is the consequence. You have to talk about it now. So we talk about what went on. If he’s old enough, we can problem solve and I always let them know that this is The standard in our home, this is what I expect from you, if you don’t do it, this will be your consequence. Maybe they have ideas on what their consequences would be. So that is just having that conversation from A calm place, bringing them into the problem solving and letting them know that we have standards in our home, and we will be enforcing them.

The next question is, how can you acknowledge negative feelings without reinforcing the negative mindset? Like if your child is complaining about something? How do you validate their feelings of disappointment without encouraging more complaining and negativity?

And I love this question. Because if you’re like me, you’re thinking of a couple adults in your life, who have been complainer’s and negative. And we think that if we show them empathy, it’s going to fuel their fire, right. But in my experience, over the years of life coaching is that it’s not a problem of someone getting too much empathy. It’s a problem of this person not being able to process their own emotions properly. So they dump them into everyone, they spill over, it’s like their head is so full of all of the negativity, and they don’t know what to do with it. And it just comes spewing out. And I think we probably all do this in different ways. Modern research tells us that empathy allows us to move through the experience faster, when we receive empathy from ourselves or from others. So there’s two things that I would consider here. In my experience, empathy works. I’ve seen this work. There’s been times in my life where my kid is hurt. And I’m just like, yep, you’re fine. And they will probably keep crying and sulking. Because they, they want that expression of empathy. They want that extension. They’re human, just like me. But if I’m at a stage now, where if my kid gets hurt, I’m over there with them. Are you okay? Like you just bail? Do you need anything? And what I’ve noticed, since I’ve started doing this is they will often be like, I’m okay, or can I have a band aid? And yeah, maybe I’ll get an ice pack. Like, they’re not wallowing, they are just like, Kay, someone’s here, someone supporting me, I don’t have to carry all of this on my own. The other thing I will say is that we don’t have to be so uncomfortable with our kids feeling negative emotions, like we don’t, sometimes I want to wallow, sometimes they need to wallow. And I think what can be really helpful here is that we can give our kids a space to start feeling what they’re feeling. We can give them tools to learn how to process them. And what I always tell my kids is, when you’re ready, let me know if you need help when you’re ready to move on. Like if you want to be sad right now, go ahead. But when you’re ready, let me know. And I can help you if you want it.

And the last question I want to cover which piggybacks on here is how do you empathize authentically, when you don’t really care that the pink spoon is dirty.

This is so funny, because I feel like I have so many examples in floating in the back of my brain about toddler drama. And it just runs at this higher level than adult drama. But to them, it’s real guys like, just like adults, when we have drama, and it feels feels real. If someone tells us it’s insignificant or frivolous, we’re just going to crash and burn right? Just connection right there. So my advice to you would be to remember, this is where they learn that I care about their experience. And I think there’s a component of faithfulness here that I might not agree with you, but they care about your experience. So let’s focus more on the experience they’re having rather than the circumstance. And it’s so simple, like we can just be totally neutral, like the pink spoon is dirty, you love the pink spoon. I get it. Sometimes my favorite gluten free pie is out of the cafe. And when I go to get a slice on Saturday, I don’t get slices of pie on Saturday, I wish I wish it was gluten free pie in my town. But it’s like I can kind of get the she said that the thing she wants is not here. Sometimes that happens to me. And if your child’s old enough, you can start to move the conversation towards like, Well, what do you want to do? And what do you think we should do? Do you want to clean that spoon, I can teach you how to wash it. If you want to get a different one, you could save up your allowance and buy yourself seven pink spoons and have one every day of the week.

Alright guys, that’s been my run through on emotional intelligence for our kids as parents. And if you want to dig into this deeper, I’ve just been like deep diving into the world of emotional intelligence. I’ve been taking a course from the Gottman Institute on emotion coaching. And I just really want to open up this conversation and take all of these steps even deeper. So I’m going to hold a emotional intelligence for moms. I don’t know what I’m going to call it boot camp workshop. I don’t know. It’s going to be held though on Thursday, June 3.

If you are on the email list, there will be details to come out on that. So if you’re not on the simple Saturday’s email, you should totally join that it’s fun email. It’s not like other email. It comes out twice a month. And I just share things that you don’t see anywhere else. Like what I’m decluttering things I’m doing with my family tips, ideas, I try to keep it short and fun and to the point. And always make sure that there’s just some kind of simple action or simple mindset being proposed that you can move forward with that week.

All right, I know I’m passing my personal 20 minute quota limit but here we go simple pleasure that I want to share with you. And this is gonna vary Hoogah vibe. That’s Hygge. That Danish word for contentment and connection and coziness, something that I run into my life and I just love it. My kids think it’s kind of weird that I’m always doing this but I love to light candles. I’ve got some brass candlesticks that I got from my parents, and I put in those long white taper candles, and I like them at least weekly for some kind of dinner no matter what we’re having. If it’s crepes if it’s tacos, I just like the candles and it just creates this soothing, warm feeling. And it’s so easy like, isn’t that so simple, get yourself a simple White Candle and just light it today. I love to do it. Once I’m done cleaning like a ritual like cleaned Saturday and I’m just gonna light the candle, maybe put it on the stove. I think that’s a nice place to move it sometimes the way from people and enjoy the ambience.

Alright guys, go to the show notes. If you can’t find them, go to simple on purpose.ca. Click Listen, all of the shows were there were all of the show notes. show notes are short. It’s not a word. And you can click on any of the links and make sure to sign up for simple Saturdays and I will catch you there as well. Talk to you later. Have a great day.


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