Would you say that your child has a strong awareness of his or her own emotions? Can your child detect when he or she is about to get really upset and hence knows what to do to self-regulate? Is your child empathetic and generally nice towards others?
If your answer is yes to all of these questions, then you must be doing some things right! You’ve been teaching your child how to be emotionally intelligent.
But what exactly does emotional intelligence entail?
According to Daniel Goleman, re-known psychologist and pioneer on Emotional intelligence, Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise your own emotions, and therefore can lead to self-regulation, and empathy. Having a high level of Emotional intelligence is linked to success, and it usually determines general well-being. In other words, an emotional intelligent child is a well-adjusted child that will have all the necessary tools to succeed in both academic and social spheres.
So, what are the parameters for raising an emotionally intelligent child?
Teach your child emotions.
There are every-day opportunities to achieve this. Just seize the day! Your child accidentally broke a toy and is feeling sad? Try to have him express his feelings. You can encourage them to name the emotion and to even draw it. Make sure you create a safe environment where your child feels listened and supported. This way you kill two birds with one stone. In one hand you make your child feel loved. In the other, you’re nurturing his emotional intelligence.
On that note, you can also teach self-regulation.
Is your child angry because a friend decided to play with someone else that day? Or perhaps they are angry because they lost their favourite toy?
You can teach them how to control their emotions by expressing them. It’s important to point out that self-regulating is not about repressing your emotions. It’s about processing them in a healthy manner. You can also have your child take deep breaths, or count to 10 to calm down. Don’t hesitate to talk with your child and ask them what could make them feel better. Children can really surprise us at how resourceful they can be!
But what if your child is often moody or gets emotional too often? Perhaps your child is experiencing anxiety. Or what if your child gets angry because it’s time to go to bed and they want to keep playing outdoors? On that case, it’s important to remain consistent on boundaries set. Taking that in consideration, make sure you:
Set healthy boundaries.
If your child persuades you with everything they want, then they won’t have any respect for authority. This will negatively impact their school performance, and therefore their academic achievement. But that’s not it. They’ll make your life a lot more difficult. Every time you need them to eat healthy, sleep at adequate times, or play safely, they’ll simply decide not to. You won’t have any say concerning your child. And this only hurts your child. Children shouldn’t be given the power to choose. They just don’t know what’s best for them.
In addition, a child that does not have any type of boundary internalised, end up defying even bigger from of authority as adults. So, in the long run, pleasing them all the time actually hurts them.
Last, but not least:
Build up empathy and other important values.
Think about values you want your children to have. Do you want your child to be respectful towards others? Then you have to start with your own self. Let's say you had an argument with a friend, and your children watch you insult them or diminish them. What do you think they would do when they have arguments with friends? Or let's say you lose your temper frequently and start lashing out towards others when things don't go your way? You would be teaching them intolerance and impatience.
So, what are your day-to-day attitudes? Are you usually kind towards your child and others? Or you remain optimistic when things don't work out as planned? Or even more, do you give thanks even when things go bad? If that's the case then you'd be teaching them empathy, optimism and gratitude.
To sum things up…
There are every-day opportunities to nurture an emotionally intelligent child. You can use situations where your child has hurt others’ feelings or have impulsively acted out. Just sit down with them and talk about how to better react in the future. Brainstorm with them different alternatives that would consequently elicit much more positive outcomes. You can also use story books or children’s movies to talk about characters’ emotions and how they could have handle them better. Take the time to go the extra mile to raise an emotionally intelligent child. In the long term, it will pay off, because an emotional intelligent child will thrive in all areas of their lives.