People with high emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in all areas of their lives. So what can you do to help nurture your child’s EQ?
By now, you’ve likely heard the term Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Emotional Intelligence has been linked with everything from confidence to capability, initiative to innovation, empathy to optimism, and more. But is EQ really that important? If so, how can parents and teachers help nurture their children’s emotional intelligence?
In brief, EQ is the ability to manage your own emotions and, therefore, your emotionally-driven behaviors. People with high EQs have the self-awareness and confidence to control impulses, reactions, and other behaviors in ways that increase social, academic, relationship, and career success. The way we, as parents and teachers, respond to our children’s emotions (particularly the negative ones) has everything to do with the child’s subsequent EQ level. When we help our children expand emotional awareness, they can better manage their own feelings and impulses. Additionally, they have a better understanding of the behaviors and emotions of the people around them. These are key factors in achieving happiness and all-around success in life. So, what can you do to help nurture your child’s EQ?
#1 Keep a Lid on It!
Okay Mums and Dads, this is the part where we have to keep ourselves in check. This, of course, is easier said than done. Parents these days are often trying to juggle way too many “hats.” It isn’t easy to keep your own temper from ever boiling over…even when exhausted or sick or stressed or otherwise stretched beyond your limits. (Trust me, I’ve been there, and I’m not trying to lay on the guilt or suggest a holier-than-thou attitude. You can read my confessions of a poor-parenting moment here.) No, we can’t expect to be perfect. But we can use some tried-and-true coping techniques to help get us through those especially frustrating parental moments. The next time you’re tempted to blow your top–stop, breathe, count to ten, and remember–as parents, it’s our job to teach kids to control their emotions. We must constantly strive to manage this feat ourselves. And if you fall off the horse, don’t waste time kicking yourself about it, use your time and energy to get right back on.
#2 Embrace the Drama!
There is a certain member of my family–I won’t name names here, heehee–who is quick to label negative emotional responses as “dramatic.” Parents and teachers should resist the temptation to dismiss our children’s emotions just because they seem trivial to us. All emotions are valid. And all emotional experiences are real. Instead of judging your children’s emotions, strive to help them understand what they are feeling and why. If we cannot recognize and acknowledge emotions (our children’s and our own,) how can we reasonably expect to master them? Make it a habit to recognize and name emotions as they arise (or in some cases, when things have calmed down.) Try not to think of the emotions as negative or positive, and allow children to talk about their feelings openly. Managing emotion and emotional reactions, starts with accepting that all emotions are real–whether we like them or not.
#3 Be Firm, Be Kind
Acknowledging the emotion behind your child’s emotional outbursts does not mean giving in to them. Remember, children in the midst of a meltdown feel out of control, maybe even frightened, by the strength of their own emotions. They are looking to you, the parent, to make them feel safe and back in control. You can do this by staying calm and sticking to your rules and boundaries. I understand, in a tearful moment of meltdown, it may seem like giving in is the kinder thing to do. This is when you remind yourself that a firm hug feels much more safe and secure than a loose grip.
#4 Look Beneath the Surface
Another funny thing about emotions, is that they aren’t always as they seem. Perhaps your child is having a tantrum about dinner, but what’s really eating him has nothing to do with food.
Children experience just as many complex emotions as adults; but we adults can’t always see what’s happening beneath the surface. The next time your child is melting down, remind yourself that there may be multiple factors leading to this moment. Just remembering that there is likely more going on than meets the eye, can help us find patience and compassion–even in the most trying of times.
#5 Develop Healthy Habits
Of course, the ultimate goal with emotional intelligence is to teach children to regulate their own emotions. To do this successfully, they must have the right habits. Here are a few basic emotional-management habits, but you must determine for yourself what works best for you and your family.
- When depleted, choose a go-to place. For some, the best way to cope is to spend some time in your chosen ‘go-to’ spot (for my husband, the garage seems to work well). Sometimes, all it takes is a little time in your personal recharging station to get coping skills back on track.
- Accentuate the positive. By this, I’m not suggesting that you live in denial of all-things-negative, I simply mean to focus on the good stuff, and think about ways that negative situations might be improved.
- Be okay with mess-ups. Learn from mistakes, and then let them go. We all make mistakes, but dwelling on past failures can be crippling. Learn from the past, but keep moving toward the future.
- Evolve. Be open to new ideas, grow, change your mind, and learn from those around you whom you admire.
- Get physical. What is a great way to blow off steam, reduce stress, increase endurance, and rid yourself of pent-up tension? I’m talking about exercise, of course. Find something physical you can enjoy doing with your children. That way, you can nurture your children’s emotional intelligence, physical health, and fun-o-meter, all at once!