How to Build Emotional Intelligence in your Child
Pointers for Parents are regular inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.
Most of us have heard of IQ, or Intelligence Quotient. We have done everything we know how to do to increase the IQ of our children. We played Mozart for them in utero. We read to them every day as infants. We taught them to count when climbing stairs as a toddler. All in an effort to prepare them developmentally and to increase their chances to be intelligent, smart people.
But have you heard of EQ, Emotional Quotient? Or EI, emotional intelligence? Those two terms are defined as the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or to achieve one’s goal. In short, it is the ability to relate to and get along with others. As much time as we spend trying to increase our children’s IQ, we have heard very little on how to increase their EQ. We have always thought these skills are developed naturally within the family, but that is no longer so. If we want children who are empathetic to others, who show compassion, who know how to relate in positive ways to those around them there are some things we can do.
- Explain to them what it means. It seems like this should be a natural thing, but it’s not really. When kids experience strong emotions, they need them to be explained. Of course in the heat of a tantrum isn’t really the time to do so. But afterwards, once things have settled, it is a good thing to have a conversation, a debrief of sorts, and talk about how to express anger in appropriate ways. Or if there is heartbreak, you might have to hug them while they cry, and explain that life is full of heartbreak and that it is okay to hurt and cry, but to get stuck there isn’t healthy. Then show them some ways to move forward. Do not discount their emotions, for they are intense and real. The key is to acknowledge the depth of them, and then teach how to fit emotional responses into life so they do not take over. All of this has to be age appropriate to the child, and may have to be repeated often, but teaching them the language of emotions will benefit them for life.
- Model what it looks like. When you show your children what healthy emotions look like they will imitate it. If you don’t handle your emotions in a healthy way, that can be a scary thing! This may take some growing on your part, but it will be worth it if your whole family relates to one another better. When children see their parents yelling at people in traffic, or hear them complaining about a teacher, or losing control at a ball game, they think this is how to relate. It is important to remember they are always watching. You don’t have to be perfect, but when you mishandle your emotions be sure to go back and say, “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. It would have been better if I had….” That way, even in our errors, they are learning.
- Do not make assumptions. Do not assume they know what you meant. Do not assume they will figure it out on their own. Do not assume they are being taught. Do not assume that will know what to do when they see or feel strong emotions. The world we live in has discarded the importance of teaching these skills. The evidence shows that we live in a narcissistic culture, where low emotional intelligence is paraded on television and all over social media. People do not show empathy and they feel it is their right to attack others if they so choose. Do not assume your child will learn differently. What you yell at the TV during election season matters. Yikes! How you teach your children to react to hard things will determine if they have high or low EQ.
By being intentional in our teaching of appropriate emotional responses, our children will benefit greatly. These basic actions can make a huge difference in their lives. They will not only be smart in their acquisition of knowledge, but they will also be able to relate that knowledge to the world around them. Their relationships will be healthier in all areas of life, which will make them happier and more successful adults. Who doesn’t want that for their children?