Emotional Intelligence is a buzz-phrase that has been gaining friction lately. We hear more and more about the need to foster emotional intelligence in our kids. Many of us may feel unsure about what to do and exactly why emotional intelligence is important to be developed in children early on.
What is emotional intelligence anyway?
Many definitions exist out there. The following is my summary:
Emotional Intelligence is our ability to identify our feelings, to understand the reasons we feel them and the effect they have on us or others. It is also our ability to empathize with another and feel genuine compassion for them.
Sounds like a great skill to master at any age! In fact it’s never too late to start. If you are like most parents, you are not a complete master of your own emotions. Yet you are attempting to teach your kids to master theirs.
How can we provide a compelling demonstration of an emotionally intelligent person to our kids?
We know very well that actions speak way louder than words. We basically need to “fake it ’til we make it” as we improve our own emotional intelligence while teaching our children. It is absolutely fine to teach and learn something at the same time. Often that is the best way anyway! What matters most is your desire and effort to provide a skill set to your kids which helps them succeed as adults.
Your ultimate goal is to set your children up for happy and fulfilling life. Elevating their emotional intelligence helps a great deal!
Five pillars of emotional intelligence (as defined by Daniel Goleman)
Self-Awareness – knowing what we are feeling, why we are feeling it, making it a basis for good intuition and decision making.
Self-Management – handling your distressing emotions in effective way so they don’t cripple you, yet attuning to them and learning what you must out of them. Being able to handle stressful situations effectively. Aligning our actions with our passions.
Internal Motivation – ability to understand and focus on what is important to reach one’s goals and dreams.
Empathy – knowing what someone else is feeling. Being able to put yourself into another person’s shoes, to understand them and provide support.
Social Skills – being able to foster and maintain rich relationships.
By helping kids develop their emotional intelligence, your help them enrich their personality, improve the quality of their relationships, increase their ability to persevere, have a positive outlook on life, as well as be an overall successful individual. You set them up early to be champions for themselves from the inside out, bringing out the best version of themselves to the world. You help them become a master of their own thoughts and feelings, ultimately becoming the master creator of their own life. (Getting a little new-agey on you here!)
Major thing to learn and teach to kids here is that you have a choice in how you in think, act, react, perceive, interpret and respond to your feelings and situations around you. The more you are aware of this, the less reactive and the more interactive you become in your emotional responses, behaviours and actions.
EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) is now given high importance along side with the good-old IQ (Intelligence Quotient). In a modern workplace people that move onto leadership roles are now highly rated on their people skills, in other words their emotional intelligence. But unlike IQ, which is known to be a birth trait, emotional intelligence can be learned and developed by anyone!
Studies have shown that children with higher emotional intelligence perform better in school, deal better with stress and stay away from depression.
Sadly, depression has been a growing issue for modern young people. The statistics are alarming. As much as 10% of kids are stressed and don’t know how to deal with that. When people are stressed, their rational and creative thinking parts of the brain are suppressed. The stress can turn into complete despair and even lead to tragic consequences. This is why being able to manage stress and stay in control is the golden skill of modern age.
I believe interactions with our children from as early as infancy impact their emotional intelligence.
Activities that help raise emotionally intelligent children
Play fun games from as early as toddlerhood to learn about different emotions and identify them. Below are two games that involve a collection of cards with various emotions written on each.
- Take turns picking a card with emotion on it.
- Demonstrate without words what that emotion looks like only with arms.
- Introduce variation: use only face to show the emotion.
- Combine both: use both face and arms to show the emotion.
“Describe Your Emotion” – teaches to identify the emotions within yourself.
- Take turns picking a card with emotion on it.
- Each of you describe a situation when you felt an emotion that is written on a card.
You can play an old-time favourite charades with a twist that provides another fun way to develop the understanding of feelings.
Numerous other games can be found online and in books.
Encourage interactive play, sharing, taking turns. Being a part of a sports team, a dance troupe, an art club or another activity group is a great way to get children to learn about relationships and expand understanding of others. Have friendly discussions with your child about their feelings in these social experiences.
Journaling regularly is an excellent way to improve self-awareness. It creates an open and intimate conversation with yourself. It also sets up good ground for writing skills in general.
Studies suggest that a newborn baby being carried and touched regularly has correlations with their future confidence, stress management and positive outlook ability. I am glad the art of babywearing has come back into the mainstream of parenting to help us out here. There is a great variety of baby carriers to choose from nowadays that fit both mom as well as dad! We can carry our babies, fostering the positive bonding and the loving relationship while giving the babies a front row seat to seeing the world in full colours.
Attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is a key component to happiness as shown by multiple scientific studies in the recent years. Being grateful teaches to be aware of the good aspects of life and get along with people better.
Talk to your children about what you are grateful for encouraging them to do the same. Discuss what they are grateful for as well. Gratitude can be expressed towards so many simple things often overlooked. For example a beautiful flower that bloomed on the front porch, dad’s Sunday morning pancakes, a fun swing ride at the playground and the list goes on! Just for fun, each time try to find something new that none of you ever expressed gratitude for yet.
A gratitude journal is another way to encourage an attitude of gratitude.
Giving and helping others
The very act of helping someone teaches the child to expand their attention to what another person needs, which improves empathy and understanding of others. For instance, visit an elderly family member and help them with their garden.
One excellent book to learn more on the subject is Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Coleman.
Something so complex as mastering emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey. It warms my heart seeing that people choose to focus on this with their kids early on, giving them an immensely valuable head start. I am looking forward to new generation being more self-aware and compassionate to the world around them than the current generation is. They are our future leaders. Let’s help them be the best they can be.
Do you have any tips to share, or stories about developing your own child’s emotional intelligence? Please share them in the comments. We can all learn from each other!
Nat is a new mom to two litle girls, and an avid promoter of babywearing. She blogs at HappyBabyCentral.com about all things babywearing and other well-being tips for parents.