Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, contain, and monitor own feelings and reactions as well as the ability to monitor, assess, and process feelings of others. Emotional intelligence also includes reading people’s facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and other obvious and subtle verbal and non-verbal messages. Emotional intelligence is a mostly learned skill and takes years to develop.
Emotional intelligence stems from a wide range of skills that children of all ages can develop and improve on. Nurturing child emotional intelligence to develop these skills are critical for emotional well-being and life success.
We want our kids to develop emotional intelligence so they acquire a sound judgment of their environment, are able to set proper boundaries with other children and adults, safely express their feelings and are aware and respond properly to other people’s emotions and messages. In a long run it helps kids develop a sense of emotional safety, social competence, empathy, and thus, a better sense of belonging in any social group.
Teaching emotional intelligence is as important as teaching academics.
Kids who lack emotional intelligence frequently suffer from bullying and get excluded from play activities by other kids. They seem being more deprived of healthy group experiences and fall further behind in their social skills. As adults, they seem to manifest with immature and reactive behaviors and tend to have problems with their friends, co-workers, superiors, with their own spouses and kids.
You can begin talking with your child about emotional intelligence as early as 18 months of age. By age of 4 you should expect to see signs of emotional intelligence such as compassion and sharing. For example your child might be asking, “Are you ok?” if someone’s hurt. Don’t worry, if your child’s has not developed these skills yet. They come very gradually. The key is to be patient and consistent.
Give your child ample opportunity to practice. Social interactions teach kids valuable life-long skills. Encourage your child to play with other kids as much as possible. You can start off with short play dates, which have to be monitored, especially with young kids. Don’t force kids to share their toys but discuss taking turns with a toy, “Emily is playing with this toy, as soon as she’s done, you can have your turn. For now, we can play with this toy together.” Encourage young kids to use words to express their emotions during a play date. Older kids benefit from group activities and interactions.
Discuss their feelings and the feelings of others with your kids. As children get older and their use of technology grows, kids find it harder and harder to express themselves without it including an emoji. Label and discuss the meaning of various facial expressions, “Samantha frowned and crossed her arms. She seems angry that Allen is not ready to give her the doll,” “Jenny is laughing. She seems happy.”
Discuss how other people feel in reaction to something your child have done. “How do you think your sister feels when you wear her favorite shirt?” “How do you think your brother felt when you broke his favorite toy?”
Read books which enrich emotional intelligence together with your kids. Introduce your child to the Lots of Feelings book by Shelley Rotner, and learn and practice together to identify various facial expressions.
Prompt your child. Say, “Oh, Michelle had a fall and started crying. Let me come to her and ask her whether she is OK. Do you want to come with me?” By doing so you’re encouraging empathy and modeling a proper response to someone who’s hurt.
Praise purposefully. When your child shows signs of emotional intelligence and empathy, make sure you notice and comment on it. “Michelle had a fall and started crying. You came closer to her and asked whether she was OK. It was thoughtful and kind of you.”
Give yourself a credit. If your child supported Michelle it means you did a wonderful job modeling empathy and emotional intelligence for your child!
Be patient. If you model emotional intelligence and your child is still not displaying it, do not rush your child – keep modeling and prompting. Being patient and understanding is a great manifestation of your own emotional intelligence.
Written by Madlena Rozenblyum, LCSW-R. Madlena is a licensed psychotherapist and a parenting expert. She is also a published author, speaker and a passionate believer in the power of positive parenting. Madlena is a principal expert and an author of a new parenting program “Parenting Solutions: Reducing Child’s Anger and Aggression” at Everyday Parenting. This program is based on the principals of positive parenting and will help you achieve successful results in as little as 4 weeks! Get the results you’ve been looking for, START you risk-free trial now!Back to blog list