Emotional intelligence (EQ) is widely recognized as important to the success of children and adults in navigating our world. From the playroom to the boardroom, EQ has become increasingly important. It can be thought of as a set of competencies that not only rates cognitive function but the functioning of one’s emotional life as well. The competencies that comprise emotional intelligence include:
- self and other awareness
- mood management
- management of relationships
By understanding emotions of self and others as well as being able to deal sensitively with others, individuals can experience greater personal satisfaction and success in life. Research shows it may be easier to teach children EQ competencies than adults, so it makes sense to begin early with instructing children through social and emotional learning.
For parents of very young children, the best place to begin building emotional learning is through being attentive to your child’s emotional needs at each stage of her development. For instance, understanding and respecting a toddler’s temper tantrum as a developmentally appropriate response that needs to be dealt with sensitively will help both you and your child move on to the next stage of development more smoothly. By acknowledging the child’s feelings during the tantrum and giving words to the feelings (“I can see that you are very angry”) you are both teaching the child about emotions and role-modeling appropriate empathy and emotional control. As the child gets older, she will be able to internalize the self-control and empathy given to her by caregivers earlier in her development.
As with other areas of teaching your child, parents should take advantage of times they catch their child dealing with emotions effectively. Make sure to be on the lookout for times that your child demonstrates empathy, conflict resolution or management of difficult feelings and offer lots of positive reinforcement for those behaviors. Recall events and situations that occur throughout your day and discuss the emotional aspects of these. Point out situations in which you or others manage emotions intelligently versus those in which people do not. Use television shows, movies and books for further examples of individuals behaving with emotional competence (or not).
Show your child that you value emotional development as much as cognitive development. Along with other educational software, books, games and toys, invest in materials that will promote social and emotional learning in your child. Incorporate teachings about feeling words, conflict resolution and empathy into your everyday lessons for your child. Take the time to explain concepts about emotions and social behavior at a level that is appropriate for your child’s development. When your child expresses interest in other’s emotions or his own, turn the opportunity into a teaching moment. Many such moments will present themselves throughout the day and such natural teaching will allow him to make social and emotional learning a routine part of life.
Seek out resources for your emotional development from your workplace or local community adult education classes. Your local library or bookstore is a good place to find information about social and emotional learning for yourself and your child. There are also several websites devoted to the study and discussion of social and emotional learning and emotional intelligence that list many other resources. Become active in your child’s daycare or preschool, and be sure that your child is being taught in an emotionally sensitive way when he or she is away from you. If difficult issues from your past or an emotional illness make it difficult for you manage your emotions, seek professional help.
As parents, we want the very best for our children as they grow and develop. Careful attention to your child’s social and emotional development will greatly improve your child’s chance of success in adult life.