How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children
When talking about intelligence, people often mean cognitive intelligence, better known as IQ. However, there is another type of intelligence that is equally important. It’s called emotional intelligence (EQ).
Basically, it is the ability to recognize, understand, and control your own emotions, as well as be aware of and empathize with other people’s emotions.
Emotionally intelligent people can identify their feelings, understand what they imply, and deal with difficult emotions much more successfully. This means, for example, they’ll handle stressful situations much easier. Or they’ll deal with failure without feeling down.
Not only that, but those people can also empathize with others and have better social skills. The vital thing to know about emotional intelligence is its development starts in our formative years.
Doing your best to raise emotionally intelligent, self-sufficient children is one of the leading principles of the Montessori method, as well.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for Children?
Higher emotional intelligence will help your child build better relationships, succeed at their tasks, and deal with frustrations. This last part is the one every parent finds all too familiar. Tantrums and meltdowns are just an aftermath. The root of those “problems” are piled-up emotions that your child never got to express.
Until a certain age, these are absolutely normal because your toddler still doesn't have the emotional skills to identify, understand, and express their big feelings. However, in time, kids grow and learn - from you.
Offer them a good set of tools to express feelings, especially negative emotions, such as anger or being hurt. You will save them from a lifetime of frustrations, poor social interactions, and challenging mental health.
Moreover, the ability to deal with strong emotions, and having high EQ in general, sets emotionally intelligent kids up for success later in life. All aspects of childhood and adulthood are influenced by one's ability to manage their big feelings.
Raising emotionally intelligent children should be top of your parenting priority list. So, what can you start doing right now to make sure you're doing your best to raise emotionally intelligent children?
Take a deep breath, and let's brainstorm ideas.
Identify Children’s Feelings
The first thing to do is to recognize your child’s emotions. Just because they’re not crying doesn’t mean they’re not sad. Having a higher emotional intelligence yourself will help you identify your child’s emotions.
Knowing what they feel is the first step in assisting them in understanding and dealing with it. Deciphering your child's emotions is not always easy. Here are some tips for you to use:
This brings us to a very important element of emotional intelligence: expressing emotions. Young children rarely have the language and the tools necessary to express their feelings with words or even facial expressions, but children learn.
Teach Your Child to Name Their Own Emotions
Naming emotions is a basis of a high EQ. Labeling emotions can help your child understand what they feel. They’ll realize it’s a part of everyday life and that everyone else sometimes feels the same. Suddenly, all this negative, unfamiliar energy can be channeled in a much healthier way.
“You broke your toy and now feel sad, don’t you? Tell me more about it. Did you really like that toy and now feel a little bit angry?” is just one of the examples. At first, try to ask leading questions, as children are more likely to engage that way.
Let's say your child's upset. Sometimes, explaining their feelings is complicated, especially with strong emotions. Wait it out, be patient as they cry, and when the moment comes when they are ready to use their words to share what they feel, you can use an emotion wheel for children to talk about their feelings.
Acknowledge Your Children’s Feelings and Empathize
Do not dismiss or disapprove of your child’s feelings. Also, being a laissez-faire parent isn’t helpful either. What your child needs is to be understood. You don’t have to agree with their view but should try to understand their perspective. Be an active listener and engage with the things they say.
That way, your child won’t feel like their emotions are irrelevant or something that should be hidden or ashamed of. Explain to them that you also feel like that sometimes. Just like adults, children need to feel they are taken seriously. Doing otherwise will teach them that disregarding other people’s feelings is the way to go.
Cultivate Empathy in Your Child
Apart from identifying our emotions, we must also consider and respect other people's feelings. “You’ve said a very bad thing to your friend Nick. How do you think it makes him feel?” is a better way to go about it than sending your kid on a time-out without explanation. Children also need to understand how others feel because it will help them build their social skills and help them grow into well-rounded individuals.
You can even exercise your child’s empathy. Ask your child to guess how people in their surroundings feel from time to time. This will help your kid grow into an emotionally intelligent child that is well aware of others and their emotions.
Teach by Example When It Comes to Expressing Your Own Emotions
All of the above means nothing if you set an opposite example. Young children absorb everything they see their parents do. Healthily express your own emotions. Explain to your child that you’re angry because your organization was not the best and you didn't have the time to accomplish every task you wanted. Maybe there was a traffic jam, and you were late to pick up clothes from the dry cleaners.
They must understand why you feel a certain way and behave like that. Also, when communicating with your partner, set an example you want your kid to follow when it comes to speaking with others. If you yell or refuse to talk to each other, your kid will most likely follow the same path.
Set Clear Boundaries
Empathy doesn't include the lack of boundaries. Just because they’re angry their sister got a “nicer" Christmas present doesn’t mean they should be allowed to throw tantrums or Legos around the house.
Teach your child to express their feelings with words and address them to those who need to hear them.
Well, you definitely won’t hear them say, “Dear father, I feel that your rejection of my brilliant proposal to spend additional 30 minutes on the playground is rather preposterous”, but with little time and practice, things will get more “civilized.”
Your job as a parent is to discipline your children but also to teach your child healthy mechanisms to deal with overwhelming emotions.
You want to avoid the scenario in which your child uses feelings and emotional responses to reach a goal. This behavior includes crying over little things or throwing seemingly unnecessary tantrums.
Sometimes, this is unavoidable, and it can be a phase, but it should not be encouraged. Your best method to deal with this is to address the emotion and the problem, but not the tears.
Teach Your Child Problem-Solving Skills
Problem-solving is a great asset that kids can use to soothe their emotions. However, you need to teach children how to problem solve. Once they’ve identified their emotions and know that yelling at the top of their lungs isn’t a solution, they must find a way to deal with them. The focus is on them finding a way, not you interfering and giving a straight-out answer.
Your job is to give some ideas, but not problem solve for them. Even better, ask them to brainstorm together.
“Now that it’s raining, and we can’t go the park, what can we do around the house that’s fun?” If your child is the one who solves that problem, they’ll learn they can rely on themselves in future similar situations. That’s a great way to raise a confident child.
Support Emotional Self-Regulation Through Montessori Method
Montessori educators make sure that they don’t get too involved in children’s play. They play the role of guides rather than leaders. In that way, children learn how to deal with social interactions, as well as how to self-regulate their emotions.
This precious ability to self-regulate is essential for healthy emotional growth. In a group of peers and even children of different ages, a child quickly needs to learn about boundaries, empathy, and emotion management.
If you would like to introduce the Montessori method into your home or classroom, you can start with what children like the most - toys! When choosing toys, make sure that they are both challenging but not frustrating for your child. That is why it’s advisable to pick Montessori toys by age.
Teach Healthy Coping Skills
When they can’t fix what troubles them, they can use a coping mechanism to deal with those “big emotions” overwhelming them. They can take deep breaths or count to 10, for example. Maybe play their favorite song, draw something, or use a coloring book. They need something to focus all that energy on.
The important thing here is that your child learns they have a tool to calm themselves whenever it is needed to do so. Being able to soothe themselves is a skill your children will always benefit from.
Finally, there is one other thing you should do:
Raise Your Own Emotional Intelligence
Working on these skills yourself will definitely help you better understand your child and show them how to deal with their own emotions. Some things you could do are:
- Practice self-awareness, and know your own emotions
- Learn healthy emotional management methods
- Be observant of other people and how they feel
- Train your social skills
- Try to build meaningful and respectful relationships
- Create your own coping mechanisms
Doing these things will help you handle your daily tasks easier. The best thing, you will become a role model you’d want your child to look up to. It’s a win-win.
So, to summarize:
What Are 5 Ways to Develop Emotional Intelligence?
How Do You Fix Low Emotional Intelligence?
You can only fix low emotional intelligence with patience, introspection, mindfulness, and work. Given that emotionally intelligent children are raised by emotionally intelligent parents, it makes sense for you to try and put in the work to deal with your own emotional awareness.
While there is a wealth of mental health advice out there that you can use to nurture emotional intelligence, you should not shy away from talking to an expert about your emotional skills.
It takes practice to achieve high EQ, especially in adulthood, but it is far from impossible.
If you adopt that sort of a growth mindset about understanding your challenges and acting on them - you are also modeling that sort of behavior for your kids—most parents wish for lifelong success for their child, and all that starts within their own family.
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