Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Emotionally Intelligent Family

Dr. John Gottman:

“Before I became a father, I had spent nearly twenty years working in the field of developmental psychology, studying the emotional lives of children. But it was not until our child arrived in 1990 that I began to truly understand the realities of the parent-child relationship.” Intense love. Frustration. Joy. Disappointment. Vulnerability.

“Surprisingly,” Dr. Gottman explains, “much of today’s popular advice to parents ignores emotion. Instead it relies on child-rearing theories that address children’s misbehavior, but disregards the feelings that underlie that misbehavior. The ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient and compliant child. Most parents hope for much more for their children. They want their children to be moral and responsible people who contribute to society, who have the strength to make their own choices in life, who enjoy accomplishments of their own talents, who enjoy life and the pleasures it can offer, who have good relationships with friends and successful marriages, and who themselves become good parents.

“In my research I discovered that love by itself wasn’t enough. We found that concerned, warm, and involved parents often had attitudes toward their emotions and their children’s emotions that got in the way of talking to their children when the child was sad or afraid or angry. The secret to being an emotionally intelligent parent lay in how parents interacted with their children when emotions ran hot.” –adapted from pp. 15-16, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman with Joan DeClaire.

Dr. Gottman’s research has also shown that an important element to successful parenting was based on how parents interacted with each other when emotions ran hot. Dr. Gottman and other researchers have observed that children benefit the most when parents have a strong relationship. “It isn’t so much about staying married for the sake of the kids. Couples need to stay happily married, if they can, in order to help their children. In families where the parents aren’t living with each other or are not going to stay married, the parents can best help their children by minimizing their children’s exposure to destructive conflict. High levels of parental conflict create emotional distress on the children and decrease effective parenting skills.