On The Road With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a game-changer. It makes moving through the tough moments as a family an opportunity for growth instead of turmoil.

I think anybody who’s going to talk about emotional intelligence as it pertains to families should be required to spend three months on the road in a small trailer with their family.  Nothing prepares you quite as well to talk about emotional intelligence as having your own emotions front and center, with nowhere to hide during that kind of experience. Living in close quarters requires you to emotionally regulate yourself on a very constant and conscious basis. It’s that day-to-day tracking of one’s own emotions that can make the difference between a pleasant experience or a disaster.

3 Month Airstream Family Road Trip #EndlessCaravan


Lucky for me this is not a hypothetical situation, this is exactly what I am up to. As part of Airstream’s Endless Caravan tour my family is spending 3 months on the road touring around the United States.  This is a trip of a lifetime and a real dream come true.  On our journey my wife, Megan, is holding creative family events focused on process art and I am leading parent workshops at schools across the country through my work with Yale University’s Emotional Intelligence Lab. I am field testing in a very real way what I am presenting to parents.

For example, in a recent experience with my family on the road, we were all worn thin. The youngest was crying, jumping up and down, while the eldest was crossing her arms as we walked in the hot sun towards a restaurant we couldn’t find. Lost, tired, hot, and hungry, everything in that moment was terrible. I realized I was feeling the same way my kids were.

So I took a deep breath and found some space in myself to move forward in a good way. Connecting with the eldest first, I let her know I totally get it. “It makes sense to feel frustrated right now. We’re going to get some food soon, and just maybe you can have a sip of my sweet tea,” I tell her, which sparks a small smile. Then she turns to her sister with some hope that things may improve.

It Starts With You

Everything centers on my own ability to recognize how I am feeling first.

Knowing when your own tank is empty or you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can help keep you from lashing out at your family. Being aware of your own emotions could keep one moment from escalating out of control and into something difficult to handle.  Using your emotional intelligence, a potential calamity remains a positive experience.

As I look at this in my work with families, I see this happening all the time. One parent comes home from work tired, or another had a tough day at home with the kids or their own job, and emotions spiral out of control. Suddenly the adults find themselves in the middle of chaos: kids not doing their homework, no one is listening to anyone, and all kinds of hell breaks loose. They look at each other and think: how did we get here?

15 Minutes of Unpleasant Emotions Vs A Whole Night of it – You Choose…

Without emotional intelligence, that one moment of frustration at the time when most families reunite at the end of the day, turns into a whole evening of nobody getting along, nobody feeling close, and nobody getting what they need emotionally from each other. The time when families come together has turned into a time of pulling apart. That’s where the practical skills or tools of emotional intelligence come in: recognizing your emotions and understanding them, and taking a proactive approach to dealing with them can turn the situation around and bring you back to harmonious togetherness.

In times of chaos, I consider the impact on my children. They are young and have done nothing to me to deserve my vengeance or aggression. As the adult, it is my role to model for them how to muster up the calm and then move from the love and sweetness I know is possible instead of letting my battered nerves guide the ship. Through practice, I learn to soften even when I am pushed to my limit.

I want these practices to be accessible and change the ways families engage during their precious time together. That’s why I’m excited about the work Yale is pioneering at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the information I am bringing to people across the country right now with this road trip. It’s a tremendous opportunity not only for me but those I meet. At its core is the question: What brings us closer as families? The answer is simple, but not easy. It is about how we relate to ourselves, internally, and to one another.

Families Want to Enjoy Each other

When people— kids or parents— are able to more deeply understand their own emotional experience, regulate those emotions, and then communicate from that regulated place, people become closer, families become tighter, experiences become more fluid. I truly believe it helps families do what they’re intended to do: enjoy each other, help one another to be happy, to live amazing lives, and to encourage one another to reach their potential.

What I love about working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is that they’re moving away from creating a methodology or program. Director Marc Brackett’s ideas, and what he and his team are pushing forward, are more practical: by learning the skills and developing ourselves, we become aware of and in tune with our own emotional and social beings. Emotional intelligence becomes a part of everything we do, seamlessly integrated to the life and culture of our family.

It’s a theory of change. It’s about how we learn more about ourselves and our emotional experiences in this world and how to use that experience to achieve the things that we want to do in our lives, whether it’s to have closer family relationships or to achieve success in our personal or professional growth.

Emotions Matter

Emotions matter, in many nuanced ways, which is a fundamental piece of the work that Yale has proved through their research. Emotions affect our quality of attention, our focus, and our ability to have meaningful relationships. This is not a soft skill. This is about how we show up in the world and how we live out our dreams. It’s about how we reach our potential as human beings on this planet.

Emotional intelligence is a skill people have overlooked. Society has taught many of us not to care about what we’re feeling. We’re told to get over it. Move on. Don’t cry. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel so much.

But the truth is we are feeling beings. You can’t stop the emotional experience from happening. You can try to scare it out of people, you can attempt to restrict it, you can make people go underground and bury their emotions. But you cannot stop the emotional experience of being a human being. It’s fundamentally who and what we are.

Emotional intelligence, used as a way of understanding ourselves, can transform our relationships, can transform our interactions with people, whether it’s with your family, or outside the home. It can transform anyone, whether you’re a 4 year old, a 24 year old, or a 50 or 60 year old. This transformation can happen across genders and generations.

I’m super excited to be traveling across the country, sharing this with people of all ages, in all situations, at various venues. To learn more about RULER visit http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/
To follow my family on Facebook visit @CoachAaronSchiller or Instagram follow @coachschiller @artpantry and #endlesscaravan
If you have questions send me a note – aaron@coachschiller.com – I love hearing from people and will respond promptly.

Mindful Father Training _ Mill Valley

Introducing the Mindful Father Training. Being fully present and alive in our role as fathers requires practice, guidance and support. In this training, meeting once a week for 3 weeks, new and experienced fathers will be given the skills, tools and support needed to be a Mindful Father!

By utilizing Mindfulness based research and parenting strategies, participants will leave this training feeling more present in their role as a Father. Mindfulness training prepares us to handle any daily or random challenges that arise with their kids.

There is still space available and you can complete your registration here.

Small Mindful Flyer

Two Minute Video: How to help your anxious child going into middle school.

This is the first in what will be many short videos on different topics. If you have a question or a topic you want me to dive into just leave it in the comments.

Introducting Personal Growth Groups For Youth Ages 8-16

In addition to the one-on-one work I have been doing with 8-16 year olds, I am teaming up with my dear friend and colleague Will Hubert to start group work. Will is a Marin native with extensive outdoor education and youth mentoring experience. The goal of these summer groups will be to support your children as they transition into being young adults.

Coach Schiller

Each group session will cover a specific theme and can be signed up for individually, weekend pairs or for all them. Here are the group themes and dates. The groups will run from 4-7.

  • Resiliency & Grit: The Value of Perseverance July 25th

  • Self Awareness & Self Care: For A Vital Life July 26th

  • Relationship Building: Bridging Adolescence, Friendship and Family August 8th

  • Positive Communication Tools: Creative Means for Self Expression August 9th

The cost is $100 per session ($75 if you sign up for all 4) and free to any parent who organizes a group of 5 or more. In addition if the dates above do not work for you and you think you have enough people to join please let us know what dates might work. We picked weekends in an effort to not interfere with camps.

We have designed a unique experience that will lead children through many important life lessons and provide skill development not generally taught in schools.  A majority of the sessions will take place on Mount Tam while others will happen around town.

I realize we are late in the summer planning season but I know some people still feel like they are missing a meaningful experience for their children to help them transition into middle school or the next grade.We recognize that everyone has busy schedules and many will not be able to participate. However we will be rolling out additional programs in the new school year so stay tuned.

If you would like to grab coffee/tea to learn more do not hesitate to reach out.

Happy Summer

Summary of The June 7th Tween/Teen Parents Workshop!

Thank you to all of you who attended the workshop last night.  Your contributions and willingness to share your vulnerability was inspiring. Here is the summary of what we covered last night.

The Four Steps to Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Parenting Style

Buddha meditation - 3D render

  1. Be Present

    • Sounds simple enough, but it is one of the hardest things for hard-working, fast passed humans to do. It takes practice to be able to do it when you need to.  If you want to see the research on this check out MBSR. You may want to check out the Headspace app if you are interested in expanding your ability to become present. Or just take a couple of minutes a day to calm your mind and connect with the present moment. My teacher once told me “The best thing about birds is that they only sing in the present moment” -so try and listen to them!
  2. Be Prepared

    • This is the game-plan that you create based on the specific behaviors you are working to modify or adapt to.
    • This includes having some pre-set consequences so you don’t have to come up with them on the spot. Ideally your child comes up with them with you. That way you don’t have to surprise them with a consequence. You can calmly say from your very present state of being. “I feel really sad about this, but we agreed that if you did __ then ___blank would happen. Remember discipline is about teaching, not about punitive punishments designed to torture or make kids feel bad.
    • Have a planned scaled response. Don’t treat severe behaviors and mild ones the same.
  3. Be Empathetic

    • Nobody loves your kids like you love them. For some reason, when they act out and overwhelm us we hit a breaking point and that love gets hidden away.
    • In my experience, 9 out of 10 times children act out there is something going on for them- hunger, fatigue, sadness, depression, anxiety, self loathing, embarrassment at school- something has set them off. Even if we can’t give them a hug when they are in this place (my 3 year old kicks and pushes me away), we can still hold love and empathy in our hearts (even when handing out a planned consequence).
    • Being able to truly understand how your child is feeling even when they are being nasty is the gateway to really being there for them in a deeper and more powerful way.
    • Remember a key piece of empathy is truly knowing from your own experience what the other person is feeling.
  4. Be Honest

    • There is some myth out there that we should not show or tell our children how we feel about the things they do.
    • I believe it is not only okay, but necessary to let them know that what they did made you sad, angry, frustrated, etc.
    • It allows them to see you as a real human being with feelings and emotions.
    • If you tell them how you feel they may just learn to tell you how they feel. Modeling is everything.

Parenting through Power vs Building Strong Relationships

Man and woman help silhouette in mountains

There Are Two Sides Of Parenting

  1. Loving kind, compassionate, supportive
  2. Firm, confronting, boundary–setting
    (Credit Steve Bearman, PHD, Founder Interchange Counseling)

Warning signs of a strained relationship include -resentment, defiance, lack of gratitude, withdrawn, isolation. limited interactions and short conversations.

4 key aspects of building a healthy relationship

  1. Respect -It is very hard to ever have a healthy relationship if we don’t respect the other person. Our kids are no different to any other relationship we are in. Respect for another human being is a key aspect of a healthy relationship.
  2. Connection –Merely habituating in the same place does not necessarily strengthen a sense of connection. I recommend making sure to have some 1-1 time with your teen/tween. Find a couple activities that are special to them or both of you and schedule when possible. Think of cell reception when it comes to connection. If you don’t have bars, its hard to talk.
  3. Independence – According to research, middle school students need to feel a sense of independence.
  4. Keep Talking – It is not your child’s responsibility to continually try to find time with you and talk to you about their life. Make it imperative to keep talking and keeping the communication flow open between you and your kid.

 “Keep Talking” Tips

Unfortunately Tweens/teenagers do not have a great reputation for wanting to have deep conversations with their parents. Sometimes parents get lucky, but mostly there is resistance during this important developmental stage.

  1. Go for it – this is your child. There should be nothing you are not willing to talk to them about. You made them, you get to talk to them even if its uncomfortable. Birth is uncomfortable, waking up to change diapers at 2am is uncomfortable.
  2. If you are uncomfortable talking to them about something  it is a really good sign you need to. Don’t ignore that resistance. It means its important. Not talking about it will only make it harder to not talk about the next thing. That pattern can actually be really dangerous for your child. Imagine not talking about walking across the street when they were young.
  3. Timing is everything. Try to figure out when they seem the most open to talking. For Some kids it is right before bedtime. For others, it is during a Saturday morning breakfast or in the car on long drives. Spend a little time figuring out when that time might be and make it a regular occurrence (not once a year, more like once a week).
  4. Be creative and never give up. Giving up on talking with your child is not just a teenage thing it can last much longer than that.

Parenting is one of the hardest things you will do in life, yet in our society we all try to do it alone.  There is definitely a delicate balance at play here and getting support is a key ingredient to being the best parents we can be.  I hope we can all focus on loving our children and not punishing them in the hopes they will learn a lesson we are not properly teaching. Focus on what is amazing about them and make sure to tell them. Continue to work on your own personal growth to properly model that for them.

And most of all, get support when you need it. Do not think you need to parent all on your own. There is no winning in going at it alone.

Feel free to reach out any time,





New Parenting Workshop June 4th “Harm Reduction” For Tweens & Teens

Please RSVP for a spot at my newest workshop focused on supporting parents build stronger relationships with their children as they transition into middle school and beyond. Donation is for a couple and if the cost is to high please just come.

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