When you have children, there are so many skills you focus on teaching them. We coach them through each milestone and try to teach them to be respectful and contributing members of society. Although these are all important skills to show to a child, there is a skill more important than anything academic.
Children are little beings with HUGE emotions, and despite sometimes wishing we could turn down those giant feelings, teaching them how to self-regulate is an essential building block needed as they grow and mature.
Teaching emotional intelligence to children is easier than one would think, and in the process, we as parents can also learn these skills. Here are 12 ways to teach emotional intelligence to your child.
12 Self-Regulation and Emotional Intelligence
Self-regulation means being able to manage high emotions and outbursts in upsetting circumstances. It also includes the ability to calm yourself when you become upset, adjust to changes and expectations without becoming frustrated, and self-direct behavior to reach a desired goal regardless of the unexpected curve balls that are thrown at us.
Emotional intelligence not only teaches one to understand their emotions but allows an individual to become self-aware and understand what they need to flourish as a person. Having emotional intelligence allows you to connect with others more efficiently and have the ability to successfully manage oneself and one's relationships.
People who are emotionally intelligent are able to consider their own as well as other's feelings and perspectives. The biggest advantage? Those who have emotional intelligence are generally happier and fulfilled people... and isn't that what we all want for our children?
Do you know that children develop empathy by 2 years of age? Although we live in a world where many of us can, at times, be self-centered or defensive, it's encoded in our DNA to care about others. Having empathy is the ability to understand others' feelings and to see things from a different perspective.
Being empathetic doesn't just help build foundations for healthy relationships for those children care about, but it teaches them how to respect and love their own flaws, despite hardships and failures. When a person is able to care and love for others, this ultimately teaches them how to love themselves.
You don't have to become Mother Theresa to model these skills. It can start small by involving your child in doing something nice for someone else who is feeling sad. It can be you holding the door open for a stranger or giving change to the homeless. The feeling you get from being empathetic will radiate a light that will be hard for your child not to notice. After all, their greatest role model is you.
10 Understanding emotions
There are no bad emotions, despite what many may think. Strong feelings such as anger, fear, sadness, and frustration are natural reactions to upsetting stimuli. Instead of ignoring or repressing these feelings, it is important for children to acknowledge them so they can ask for help to learn how to manage them. We as adults have had practice dealing with these emotions and, for the most part, we generally know what causes them and how to handle them appropriately.
Until the child knows how to communicate without big emotions playing a factor, it's important not to sound condescending while talking to your child. Knowing what they feel is still a valid emotional response will guide them into learning how to calm themselves with less resistance. Depending on the age of your child, this one may take a little (or a lot) of practice. But remember that children learn the most from parents' modeled behavior.
9 Be Self-Aware
To be self-aware is to consciously acknowledge your own behaviors, emotions, and internal motivations. Better yet, those who are self-aware are better able to go after what they want and live happier and more satisfying lives.
When you are honest about your own mental health with your child, and they are able to watch how you practice self-care and coping techniques, they will subconsciously copy those skills. That includes communicating out loud about what you are grateful for in life, setting goals that you follow through on, and never stopping to pursue personal growth.This shows your child that life is a journey that one never stops learning on. Instead of chasing the idea of riches, chase knowledge and memories. Children who have emotionally intelligent and aware parents grow up to look on the beautiful side of life.
8 Acknowledge Your Child's Perspective
When you are upset and try to communicate how you feel to a loved one and they completely disregard what you are saying, how does that make you feel? We all want to be heard, and the same goes for children. Even though their reason for throwing a meltdown may be a bit irrational, with a little practice they will use words instead of tears to get their point across.
That's not saying that every time your child becomes upset, you should “give in” and accommodate every wish. Acknowledging your child's perspective as to why they are upset lets them feel heard. Take this opportunity to help them label the emotion they are feeling and let them give their reasons why. Then, the likelihood of cooperation you'll get from your child, once you calmly tell them “no” and why, will help them understand your own perspective.
7 Allow Expression
Allowing expression helps children to differentiate between emotions and their "true selves." A true self is knowing who you are and how that affects your judgment and actions without being easily persuaded by the wants of others (or emotions, in this case).
Being able to express feelings is healthy, but unfortunately, especially for boys, the machismo ideologies are still heavily influenced by perceptions of society. Repressed emotions in childhood, perhaps out of fear of humiliation, can lead to mental and physical illness later in life. Children who are not able to express anger or sadness may grow up to be aggressive adults later in life.
6 Let Your Child Pick An Outlet
There are many ways to allow expression that don't always result in tears. Ideally, you can help your child pick an activity that helps them feel better and channel those big emotions into something that acts as a release. For a child who is artistic, they can listen to music, sing, dance, or draw. For a child who is athletic, they can play a sport, run around the yard, or do some stretches. Or maybe it can be something calming like reading a book or watching sensory bottles.
These are just some suggestions—you know your child best! This teaches your child to practice self-care techniques, leading to healthier coping strategies.
5 Teach Patience
Understandably, children are not the most patient people. Especially living in a fast-paced society, the importance of having things immediately doesn't allow many opportunities to show our kids how to be patient. Yet, learning patience helps us to be grateful for what we already have. It improves work ethic because it allows us to reflect and set goals while understanding that whatever one strives for takes time and effort. Patience also helps to make concise and thorough decision-making, rather than acting on impulse and emotion.
It can start with something as simple as showing your child how to take turns. The easiest way to teach your child patience, however, is to actively model your own patience by staying present.
4 Label Emotions
As adults, we know that there are so many different types of emotions we could feel. However, emotions are still relatively new to your child, even if they are a few years old. It may be easy for us to pick up on signs of what emotion we are feeling, but to children, it can be confusing and overwhelming.
Helping your child label the emotion they are feeling teaches them to be aware of their body cues. Not only can this build communication skills and help with becoming self-regulated, but it helps the child become self-aware and accepting of themselves and how they feel.
3 Conflict Resolution Practice
As parents, sometimes it is easier to put our foot down and stop nonsense when we've had enough of the yelling. But instead, we can show our kids how to mediate on their own by using their emotional intelligence.
Next time your kids argue, try the following method: ask them to take a few breaths to become self-aware, and practice problem-solving skills. Even though many children argue with their siblings or peers, this is how they learn how to properly communicate and socialize with those around them without compromising their own values.
2 Problem-Solving Skills
Although this can be tricky, learning how to problem-solve isn't as daunting as one might think. Those who know how to problem-solve are more likely to be leaders, open-minded, great at persuasion, and honest without alienating or offending others.
Allow both children to take turns to calmly explain their perspective. When both sides have been heard, ask them to “work as a team” and come up with several different options about how to resolve the conflict. Eventually, a resolution will be agreed upon where both children feel satisfied or another opportunity will open up to communicate that a readjustment needs to be made to avoid further conflict.
1 Admit When You're Wrong
This may be a hard pill to swallow, but even as a parent, you make mistakes. Whether it's something astronomical or something as small as remembering to wash your daughter's favorite princess dress, it happens. Rest assured, it happens to us all because we are only human.
Apologizing to your child, even if it's over something that seems irrelevant, shows your child that it's okay to be wrong. Admitting when you're wrong creates trust, consideration of feelings, and open communication. We want our children to know they can come to us whenever they are in trouble. This will positively affect how they interact with others, making them reliable, well-adjusted, and honest adults.