So says Sarah…

Emotional intelligence (what the heck is it?)

Posted in Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 10/13/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Your child is super frustrated about something, but isn’t able to communicate clearly what has gone wrong. You feel your emotions getting the best of you as you also become aggravated trying to help. Instead of getting to the root of the issue, tempers rise. With a younger child, an extreme temper tantrum may erupt or an older child may resort to yelling or even crying. Sometimes our emotions get the best of us, but they are essential to our development and ability to deal with social situations.

Emotional intelligence, also knows as EQ, has been discovered to be an important aspect of how we respond to social situation, such as our child throwing a temper-tantrum. A child develops his emotional intelligence through experimenting with imaginary play and having positive behavior modeled to him. When children feel supported and comfortable emotionally, they are better able to effectively learn and are more apt to be physically fit, score higher academically, and get along better with friends and family. As parents, we can assist in a child’s emotional intelligence advancement through simple steps that will encourage his ability to learn, behave, and problem solve effectively.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The study of the emotional human being can be traced all the way back to Darwin and his evolutionary research, but was not highly publicized to the main-stream until the publication of Emotional Intelligences by Daniel Goleman. His book brought a greater understanding of how emotional intelligence plays a role in children’s behavior and learning and how high IQ doesn’t always lead to success. Goleman also finds that social skills and understanding of how to succeed in challenging situations is also important in the development of children and their evolution into a smart and well-rounded adult.

How to Teach Emotional Intelligence

According to Goleman, life skills can aid in building one’s emotional intelligence and help children in learning how to best respond in social situations.  The next time a frustrating situation arises, following a couple of simple steps may lead to stronger parent-child interactions and a greater awareness of problem-solving skills.

Try discussing with the child:

1. What are you feeling? When a child has the basic emotional skills to understand his feelings and put a name to them, he is on his way to mastering self-awareness. Focusing on the emotion a child is feeling helps him understand and label it.

2. Why are you feeling that way? Knowing where an emotion came from or the reason why a child is feeling a certain way is key to solving the problem. When a child can verbally express the reason for his feelings, he’s able to manage his emotions. This is a bonding opportunity between an adult and child fostering nurturing and emotional growth.

3. How can I help? The ability to understand when someone is hurt, sad, or happy and respond appropriately with empathy encourages emotional growth. Taking the time to listen carefully to a child’s concerns or thoughts allows for understanding and comfort.

4. Let’s talk it out. When a child can properly express to others his emotions without frustration or judgment, he builds his life-skills. Encourage a child to use words he best feels express the situation also encourages his language skills.

5. Here is my suggestion. When a child is able to listen to others and really hear what is being said to him, he is able to improve his emotional intelligence. As an adult, set firm and realistic boundaries when problems arise, along with appropriate discipline if needed.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

As parents you can improve your child’s (and your own) emotional intelligence as well as foster positive academic learning. It is easier than you think and can also be incorporated into the classroom. Along with following the above suggestions for working through challenging situations, try to:

Identify feelings – It is never too early to help a child better recognize why he is feeling the way he does. Find ways to aide a child in giving his emotional state a name by asking clarifying questions such as, “I can see you are frustrated because you can’t get the scissors to cut. Would you like me to help you figure it out?” Encouraging a child to find a way to problem-solve along with labeling his emotion opens his mind to new thinking – better expanding his emotional intelligence.

Stay positive – Before resorting to “no” find ways to encourage a child engage him in a positive way.  Set strong limits along with being understanding and patient in challenging situations. Communicate with positive language and in a clear, direct way, which will encourage a child to also do so in the future. Not only are you encouraging your child’s emotional intelligence, you are boosting your own, too!

Have some quality one-on-one time – Fostering a child’s positive attributes encourages his self-confidence as well as his emotional intelligence. Instead of always focusing on academic skills, take the time to find out what your child is interested in and also excels at, and encourage that skill. When a child feels positive about his special talents, he is more excited about learning as well as exploring and experimenting.

Listen – When your child is frustrated, angry, or just really excited, take the time to listen and listen closely. We all like to feel others hear what we are saying, and it is the same with kids – it is just that they seem to have lots to say! In a heated situation, take the time to attentively listen to what your child has to say along with encouraging his communication skills by asking questions and offering support. Once your child has finished communicating, it is time for him to listen as you offer your response. By modeling positive listening skills, your child will pick up on your clues and, in time, respond appropriately.

Problem solving with emotional intelligence strategies does not mean behavioral issues will disappear, but when time is taken to implement positive emotion coaching, children are better able to deal with emotions helping them to feel more confident and develop in wonderful ways.

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