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Why kids need an emotionally intelligent dad (and how to be a better one)

Denise Daniels is an award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert and author.

The nurturing and emotional care of the children should not all fall on the mother

Chances are you know all about IQ, or your intelligence quotient. We are all pressured from the time we are young to be smarter, stronger and more successful. But what about your EQ? Also known as emotional intelligence, EQ is the process by which one learns to recognize, understand and manage his or her emotions. It also includes the ability to recognize and be aware of the feelings of others. A strong emotional intelligence is now thought to be a better predictor of success in life over cognitive skills and family background. And while IQ is fixed at birth, EQ can grow and develop throughout a lifetime. With that in mind, it is never too late to begin building your EQ and that of your child.

Good parenting involves emotions. It may sound obvious now, but this notion hasn't always been the case. In past generations, including my own, a father's role was seen primarily as the family breadwinner, while the nurturing and emotional care of the children was relegated to the mother. Those days are gone.

According to the American Psychological Association, a father's contributions to his child's social, emotional and cognitive development is now known to be just as impactful as that of a mother's. Noted psychologist Marc Brackett, Ph.D., from Yale's Center for Emotional Intelligence, has found that children who receive emotional support from their dads are less likely to struggle with behavioral problems or substance abuse, and do better in school and in their relationships with others.

So, with that in mind, what are some notable characteristics of a high-EQ dad?

  • He is emotionally engaged with and aware of his child's moods and feelings.
  • A high-EQ father recognizes the importance of his role in his child's emotional development and sees it as an opportunity to deepen their bond.
  • He is an empathetic listener who respects and validates his child's feelings.
  • He avoids telling his child how to feel and reassures him that that all feelings are OK.
  • He knows, for example, that bedtime is an ideal opportunity to connect with his child and quietly talk through the ups and downs of their day.
  • He teaches his child how to problem solve.
  • A high-EQ dad helps guide his child through everyday challenges by offering simple, age-appropriate strategies or, perhaps, even through role playing. By doing so, he empowers his child, showing him or her that there is a strategy for every problem they may face.
  • A high-EQ dad positively models how to handle strong emotions such as anger or frustration.
  • He shares his own feelings because he knows that these are often the most teachable moments and that even strong feelings can be managed by using simple strategies such as taking a time out, or pausing and taking a few deep breaths to calm down.
  • He makes time to play!
  • A high-EQ dad knows that when children are at play, they are exploring and experiencing a wide range of emotions.
  • He knows that it is not about having the latest toy or electronic gadget, but about the quality time that he is sharing with his child.

Being a high-EQ dad takes patience, practice and commitment but the rewards are immeasurable. Your child is watching, listening and learning by your example. Celebrate this Father's Day by beginning to use these best practices so you can give your child the building blocks they need to be happy, healthy, emotional beings.

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