This Simple Motto Will Improve Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence
As the World keeps turning and we continue to feed kids standardized tests, homework, and worksheets; simultaneously, a lot of research is being published, showing that a child’s EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, is far more determinant of their success, happiness, and fulfillment than their IQ, or academic intelligence. But, what exactly is Emotional Intelligence? And how do you teach your kids to be emotionally intelligent? The answer may be simpler than you think.
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Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize, take responsibility for, and appropriately express your emotions, as well as recognize and understand others’ emotions, too. Although it was previously thought that our Emotional Intelligence was inherited from our parents, recent studies show that one can develop his or her emotional intelligence at any age, though it is largely affected by our environments and what our caretakers’ show and teach us while growing up.
So, emotional intelligence is teachable and learnable. I know this — first hand — because, in the past few years, I have developed a curriculum to explicitly teach kids how to increase their Emotional Intelligence (like how to notice different emotions’ physical signs in the body, or name an emotion and process it). After guiding and empowering kids with new emotional tools to integrate into their lives, both their parents and I have experienced immense changes in kids’ behaviors, mindsets, attitudes, and their sense of self in a short amount of time. And most of my work with children is based on this simple motto: Include the child in the process, and make that process visible.
Include Your Child
I have found that using this simple motto has completely transformed how I interact with kids, see and meet them exactly where they are, and model habits of mind using language, drawings, and other means of expression. This motto can be applied to just about any area within parenting and is especially pertinent to social-emotional learning. In the case of improving your child’s emotional intelligence, this means making your own emotional processes visible for your kids through language. Doing this will look different in everyone, but may include tools that your kids can also use on their own, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping, journaling, mindful breathing, taking time to be alone in silence, or talking to someone you love.
It also means taking the time to voice how you are feeling and explaining how different emotions feel in your body (cue: when I feel angry, it feels like fire in my throat and head). It means using Nonviolent Communication to make observations about your emotions or your children’s emotions, share your feelings, and express your needs (regarding your emotion).
And it may sound like, “I need a few minutes alone in silence because I am feeling upset.”
As a parent, sharing your emotions may sound tedious and vulnerable and maybe even, inappropriate; yet, this is exactly how your child will learn how to successfully navigate the difficult emotions they will face in the future, through what you model to him or her. It is only natural to want to protect your child from every danger, negative emotion, and unknown out there. To only show them the loving, caring, supportive and very put-together self.
Show All Your Emotions
But let’s be real, we are all humans and life happens; and even the most patient, wholehearted parents out there get annoyed, feel frustrated, and sometimes, react, instead of respond. And although it may feel like you are failing your children in these moments, similar to most struggles, there is some magic in the breaking-down, the ugly, and the “emotional.” Instead of retreating to the bedroom when you feel sad, or covering up your emotions with your “happiness” to be with them, let your child see and experience a variety of different emotions and a range of ways to healthily express them. Include them in the process, and make that process visible.
Show your child the importance and beauty of feeling and accepting all of our emotions, not just the positive ones.
When you only show the positive emotions you experience, children subtly get the message that some emotions are acceptable to express and other emotions are unacceptable to express, which can lead to layered feelings and detrimental behaviors in the future. The more emotion you express, show, talk through, and process out loud – the more emotional tools your child will have in their toolbox when they are grown up. And in the meantime, both you and your child’s emotional intelligence will improve, as well as your relationships, sense of self-worth, and ability to empathize and recognize emotion in others.
Children who learn how to process and overcome difficult emotions in healthy ways become adults who are not afraid to stay open-hearted in the face of difficulty and have courage and vulnerability to express themselves authentically. So let’s include our children in the process, and make that process visible.
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