We hear a lot about emotional intelligence these days. It’s defined as:

‘the ability to use and manage your emotions – your FEELINGS – in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, overcome challenges and diffuse conflict.’

This emotional strength helps us to form healthier relationships, achieve greater success at work and lead a more fulfilling life.

Emotional intelligence steadies the ship.

Feelings are so incredibly tangible, so seemingly ‘real’ to us as humans – Spock wasn’t hindered by such frivolity – but we modern Americans will stake our life on them.

Feelings can be extreme.

I don’t trust in my feelings because feelings are emotions and emotions are flexible, fallible, constantly changing, driven by diet, hormones, weather, emails and texts and circumstances beyond our control and within our control.

And yet, it seems to me that so many are raising their children by feelings, training them by their feelings, encouraging them to live by their feelings. And the fruit of this lifestyle is regrettable.

Sad? Buy something.
Bored? Watch something. Or play something electronic.
Angry? Act it out by throwing things, shouting, shooting off an email wrought with all your petty, selfish, angry tirades or a text for quicker satisfaction.
Depressed? Eat something. Treat yo’self.
Tired? Don’t show up.
Don’t commit.
Don’t follow through.
Don’t do what you don’t feel like doing…carry this into adulthood and marriage and there you have chaos and confusion.
Brokenness and devastation.

I believe ‘feelings’ are perhaps the worst guiding force in life.

If we make our decisions based on feelings, live our daily lives based on feelings, we are sure to stumble, to falter – to be unfaithful to important commitments, because feelings lie.

Emotional intelligence is new terminology in my vocabulary bank, but as I reflect upon our pattern of life in the Mira home, the following were some ‘lifestyle exercises’ that helped to build this necessary emotional muscle in our five boys in their growing-up years.

This ‘grit’ is serving our sons well as they pursue their dreams, achieve their goals, and follow through on their commitments, rain or shine.

  • As a rule, my boys were not raised to live according to their feelings and emotions. It was a luxury I knew we all couldn’t afford.
  • They had to get out of bed on time and read their Bibles and write in their journals even if they didn’t feel like it.
  • They had chore charts to complete every day; didn’t matter if they felt like it. If they performed their chores ineptly they re-did them with a happy heart, even if that ticked them off.
  • They spoke appropriately to their parents whether they felt like it or not. (Yes, they could express their contrary opinions, just in a respectful way.)
  • They did their bookwork before they played.
  • They ate the foods they didn’t feel like eating and learned to like pretty much everything.
  • They were kind to each other when it was the last thing they felt like being…or there were immediate consequences.
  • They shook hands and looked adults in the eye when they felt like hiding in a corner.
  • They weren’t allowed to throw crying tantrums and express out-of-control fits of rage.
  • They answered elders with “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” even if the adult didn’t deserve their respect.
  • They wrote thank-you notes in longhand for gifts and kindnesses they received. Probably the last thing a kid ‘feels’ like doing.

I, too, held myself accountable as Mom, refusing to allow moodiness, depression, anger and other fleeting emotions to rule my spirit, thus, our home. I recognized the importance of not giving in to the emotions that would have liked to dominate my home with a black cloud.

It was the little things like this, day-by-day, that built healthy habits that not only serve my adult sons well today, but serve their clients, employers, wives, children, and the society they live in.

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