A child’s emotional intelligence is more vital to their success in life than their IQ.
So if we want to raise happy, well-adjusted, and confident kids then it’s something every parent should focus on.
Long gone are the days of keeping things bottled up inside and putting on a brave face.
In today’s world, it pays to be sensitive and in tune with yourself as well as others.
Here are the habits to adopt to help your child blossom into a highly emotionally intelligent person…
1) They talk about emotions
A video went viral this year of a heartwarming conversation between a four-year-old boy called Aldie and his mom Jonisa Padernos.
It captured an intimate talk before bedtime where the pair discussed their feelings after an incident earlier in the day.
Aldie wasn’t allowed out and was “still a little sad”. To which his mama explains “But that was a consequence”.
After talking about their feelings some more, she offers up that “Life is like that. We get upset, we get mad, we cry.”
Aldie interjects to remind her “That’s emotions, mama”, later going on to clarify that “today I had a hard day doing my emotions”.
His mom reassures him that “It’s ok, we’re learning.”
Yet it seems that Aldie is far better at “doing emotions” than he may think.
In fact, to the outside observer, I’m guessing his astute awareness appears far beyond his years.
What is clear is that having parents who openly encourage discussion around feelings promotes greater emotional understanding and awareness.
2) They validate their child’s feelings
It’s not just talking about your child’s feelings that is significant.
The clip outlined above wouldn’t have prompted the same outpouring of admiration if the mom had told her son that he overreacted and should stop being so silly.
Just as with adults, it’s important for children to feel as though their emotions are valid.
This helps them to accept and work through their feelings, as well as teaching them self-compassion.
Sometimes as grown-ups, we imagine kids have it easy. We don’t always appreciate that to a child their problems feel as real to them as ours do.
We can practice emotional validation by:
- Really listening
- Being sincere
- Not discouraging them from fully feeling an emotion, and instead asking questions about what they feel and why
- Not being tempted to try to fix their problem for them and encourage them to search for their own solutions
3) They build their self-esteem
It sounds like a real no-brainer. Every parent on the planet wants their kids to be confident and feel good about themselves.
But we can also subtly undermine this too, without even realizing it at times.
- Criticize their choices
- Expect the “best” from them at all times (aka perfection)
- Highlight their weaknesses
- Not trust them to do things for themselves
- Shield them from making mistakes
Being vigilant for ways we unintentionally undermine can really help — along with doing the following things that build their self-belief:
- Getting your children involved
- Asking them to help you
- Trusting them to perform tasks
- Encouraging them to care and share with others
- Teaching positive self-talk
- Letting them make their own choices
4) They encourage self-awareness
One of the foundations of high EQ is self-awareness.
The more a child understands themselves the better they can self-regulate.
By talking about your child’s feelings as well as emotions in general (like we’ve mentioned above) you’re already going a long way towards encouraging self-awareness.
It’s never too early to start. In early childhood, you can read books to them that promote social-emotional learning.
We’re talking about plots, storylines, and characters that discuss themes like cooperation, consideration, sharing, and respect.
Research has shown that reading fiction also helps to develop empathy — another important EQ skill.
Learning doesn’t need to be heavy. As we’ll see next, the best way to learn is often through fun.
5) They use play to teach life lessons
When it comes to broadening horizons nothing is quite as effective as play.
Particularly when it comes to younger children, much of what they learn happens through playtime.
It is the vehicle through which they discover the world, and it can be put to good use to promote emotional intelligence.
You can illustrate a wide range of emotions and scenarios through dolls and puppets.
Similarly, face recognition games can encourage your child to become more tuned into other people’s feelings.
You can draw emotions, play emotional charades, start a feelings journal, spot the emotion and so much more!
6) They teach practical tools to deal with emotions
Every parent wants to arm their children with the skills they need to navigate life.
Moms and dads may secretly dread the day they feel like their little one no longer needs them. But the truth is that they also want them to be able to stand on their own two feet.
You can teach your child to regulate their own emotions through things like:
- Role play and rehearsing certain scenarios
- Breathing exercises
- Mindfulness for kids
- Stress release toys
- Encouraging your child to share with you something positive from their day, and something that was challenging —then ask them how they dealt with that
- Giving your child time and space to think through their emotions
- Encouraging your child to identify their feelings with a mood meter
7) They lead by example
All the best intentions in the world go out of the window when we say one thing, but do another.
That’s why above all else parents who raise emotionally intelligent children are themselves emotionally intelligent.
Actions speak louder than words. That means parents need to practice what they preach.
They model the characteristics of self-awareness, integrity, self-motivation, strong boundaries, empathy, curiosity, and more.
Sure, not always perfectly. But they aim to provide the good example their child is looking for.
After all, children learn how to behave by watching their caregivers. They end up picking up all of our best and worst habits.
That’s why moms and dads who raise emotionally intelligent children constantly strive to improve their own EQ too.
That way they can pass their wisdom on for generations to come.
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