Emotional intelligence in children cannot be measured by IQ tests. But it can help them tremendously in working through challenges and responding successfully to different situations. Generally, it can help your kid in life more than ‘ordinary’ intelligence.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, the author of the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ described key components of emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and how they affect others.
- Self-Regulation: A person can control how he/she responds to his/her emotions and doesn’t act impulsively.
- Motivation: People who have intrinsic motivation are passionate about reaching their own goals and are motivated by things beyond money, recognition, fame, etc. That can help them succeed despite negative feelings they might have.
- Empathy: A critical one. It represents the ability to understand how others are feeling, but also our response to people based on their emotional state.
- Social Skills: Basically means being able to interact with others and build meaningful relationships.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence in Children Important?
Some studies showed that higher emotional intelligence is linked to higher IQ. Kids who have higher levels of emotional intelligence tend to perform better on standardized tests and have higher grades. By the American Journal of Public Health, kids who were better at sharing, cooperating and following directions at the age of five were more likely to get a college degree and a full-time job by the age of 25.
More importantly, it enables them to have deeper friendships and form better relationships, both personally and professionally. There’s also less chance for them to experience depression and other mental illnesses.
What Can You Do to Strengthen Emotional Intelligence in Children
Modeling emotional intelligence starts at home. Teach you kid and help them understand their emotions by putting them into words rather than acting out. Kids become physically aggressive mostly between ages two and five – because they don’t know how to express their feelings.
You leading by example is critical. I understand if you are busy, angry, overwhelmed and/or upset and just want to get it out of your system. But don’t dismiss your children’s feelings just because you don’t know what to do with them.
Try labeling your kid’s emotions. Words like upset, shy, painful, angry can build their vocabulary to express their feelings. But positive emotions are just as important. Use words such as excited, joyful, thrilled, hopeful to build their confidence and help them understand what they’re experiencing.
If your kid has trouble wording their emotion, let him/her draw it and you do the majority of talking trying to understand it. It’s better than screaming and throwing things around.
Importance of Knowing How to Cope With the Feelings
When they realize what they’re feeling, the kids need to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way. Often we as adults don’t know how to do it, but we’re all on this learning path together.
Teach your kid specific skills to calm themselves down or face their fear. Taking a few deep breaths, playing soothing music or coloring can be a good way to manage their emotions.
Building emotional intelligence in children also means teaching them how to solve problems. If your kid is angry that one of the siblings keeps interrupting them, brainstorm different ideas on how to solve this problem. Help them identify possible solutions and think about the pros and cons before picking out the best idea.
Act as a coach – not giving them solutions, but helping them come to the conclusion themselves. That way you will help them more than doing the job for them.