Children need to develop Emotional Intelligence for a variety of reasons. It helps them understand their feelings and thoughts about themselves and others, but its effects go much deeper than that. Emotional Intelligence can even have a profound effect on their ability to obtain better job opportunities later in life.
In this article, we will detail what Emotional Intelligence is and explore its benefits. Then we will discuss parenting tips to help children develop this skill.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence, often referred to as EQ, is a psychological theory that measures a person’s ability to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions. It emphasizes an awareness of how our emotions affect our behavior, and learning to manage both.
It is essential that children gain these abilities and awareness in their journey to becoming empathetic, balanced adults who are capable of handling difficult situations. The five main components of one’s EQ are:
- Empathy – The ability to understand the feelings and emotions of others.
- Self awareness – The ability to recognize one’s own emotional state and give an accurate self assessment. This skill is necessary for emotional growth.
- Self regulation – The ability to manage thoughts and emotions, as well as consider long term consequences.
- Internal motivation – Behavior that is driven by intrinsic rewards. This skill helps people attain goals they set and achieve in every area.
- Social Skills – Behaving in ways that are socially acceptable. In addition, knowing how to communicate with others.
Emotional Intelligence comprises a skill set with enormous benefits. With some effort, it can be learned by both children and adults.
Benefits of Teaching Emotional Intelligence
There are many benefits to teaching Emotional Intelligence. Primarily, it helps children perceive, manage, and regulate their own feelings and emotions. Beyond that, it also helps them understand the feelings of others. Together, these give children a lowered risk of depression and other mental illnesses (Stratford).
At the same time, high Emotional Intelligence, also known as an emotional quotient (EQ), allows a student to make better connections with others, which improves their friendships, their ability to work in teams, and their conflict resolution. In fact, people with higher Emotional Intelligence are more likely to get promoted at work and earn better salaries (Latrobe University). A study by the American Journal of Public Health found that students with high EQ were more likely to obtain college degrees (Stratford). For these reasons, teaching EQ gives children a better chance at career success and a better life in general.
Parenting Tips to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children
Children begin developing their Emotional Intelligence through interaction with their parents or caregivers. Therefore, it is important that parents show children how to successfully manage their emotions. Here are some parenting tips that will help raise your child’s EQ.
- Talk about feelings with your child. Children learn from adults modeling behaviors, and constructively expressing emotions is a healthy practice. Express how you are feeling to your child and allow them to see how to show the feeling in a productive way. For example, tell your child you are happy they are home from school, or you are frustrated that you had to work late. By doing so, you give them the chance to learn how to articulate feelings (Stratford).
- Listen to your child. Listen to the emotions your child expresses, without trying to fix them. Instead, validate their feelings as real even if you don’t understand them (Penn State).
- Recognize moods in the house. Help your child identify moods by asking, “What does it feel like to be in the house now?” Give hints if the child needs them. Gradually, children won’t need hints and will easily express the mood. Try this at different times, such as right before bedtime when it is quiet, or first thing in the morning when it is busy (Stratford).
- Model How to Appropriately Express Feelings. It is important that you consistently demonstrate how to express feelings in healthy ways. Children learn early on from their caregivers about what is appropriate when expressing emotions, so begin as soon as possible. Show them that as an adult, you are responsible for how you express your emotions, even during stressful times (Penn State).
- Identify the feelings of others. Encourage children to recognize when others have big feelings. For example, if another child falls down on the playground, ask your child, “How do you think they feel?” Or, while children run happily in the park, ask, “How do you think they feel to be here?” Noticing others’ feelings and how they are like their own is an important part of your child’s developing empathy. (Stratford).
- Label Feelings. Help your child label their feelings and empathize with why they feel that way. This will help them articulate their emotions. Offer words to help them do so, such as, “Do you think you’re feeling confused and disappointed, or just sad?” (Penn State).
- See emotions as a way to connect and teach your child. Children’s emotional episodes should not be viewed as sources of frustration for you. Instead, re-frame them by seeing them as ways to connect and strengthen your relationship. By coaching your child through their tough or poorly timed emotions, your bond grows. And, over time, they will have fewer outbursts. It’s a worthwhile investment to improve both your relationship and their emotional control. (Gottman).
- Help your child solve problems with limits. While all emotions are acceptable, some behaviors are not. Teach your child problem-solving skills to help them cope with big emotions. Also, be clear about how children can express their feelings. While screaming and shouting are not acceptable, expressing sadness and frustration are. Be consistent about your expectations and have patience. Sometimes, having your child set goals with rewards can be helpful. Goals can include special time with parents and caregivers. (Gottman).
Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs, including SEL programs for elementary schools, and programs on Emotional Intelligence, mindfulness, inclusivity, allyship, conflict resolution strategies for students, and more.
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