7 essential tips to raise emotionally intelligent children

7 essential tips to raise emotionally intelligent children
10 Jul 2020

As parents, it’s a universal truth that we all want our children to succeed in life. We register them for the best preschools, buy educational toys, sign them up for after-school activities, and look for every opportunity to help them become the best version of themselves. Unfortunately, we often overlook one major factor in a child’s ability to be happy and successful in life: their emotional intelligence.

Somewhere among all the hustle and bustle of learning their ABC’s, tying their shoes, and counting by two’s, sometimes it’s easy to forget the value of teaching a child to understand their emotions, be better friends, and overcome adversity. In fact, researchers are finding that it isn’t always book smarts that get a person ahead in life. They found people who tend to be more emotionally intelligent and aware of their feelings actually outperform their higher ranking IQ peers.

Thankfully, we have the ability to help our sons and daughters thrive by challenging ourselves to help set them up for success physically, intelligently, and emotionally.

emotionally intelligent mom and son

7 essential tips to raise emotionally intelligent children

Label feelings and emotions.

A critical component to emotional intelligence is the ability to identify strong emotions a person can feel. We need to empower our kids with the correct vocabulary to help communicate what is going on inside their little bodies. Start with the basics, such as: happy, sad, anger, hunger, and so on. Once they understand these feelings, children can learn to identify them in other people and use their words.

Encourage open dialogue in a safe environment.

One way we can help our children learn to navigate the complex world of emotions is by encouraging communication. From the time our kids are small, we need to listen and talk about everything with them. Even if we don’t want to hear about another cartoon or game update, we must. If we fail to hear the small stuff today, there is no way they will come to us when they are in distress or great need tomorrow. Avoid judgment and lecturing to keep kids talking with us into the teen years.

emotionally intelligent father and daughter

Teach empathy.

For children to become emotionally intelligent, they need to develop empathy or the ability to understand another person’s point of view. This skill takes years to form, but empathy bridges our children to others, helping them gain diverse perspectives and the ability to maintain relationships. Hone this life skill by talking about other people’s feelings, provide opportunities to share, and consider participating in various volunteering efforts.

Use books or movies to teach emotional intelligence.

Harness the power of literature and media to show different perspectives, life circumstances, and ways to overcome adversity vicariously through characters. This allows us to discuss what is happening and why from the safety of home. Encourage kids to put themselves into a character’s shoes and try to understand the emotions they may be feeling. Also, use these conversations to point out if a character’s strategies are appropriate or inappropriate responses.

emotionally intelligent girl with dog

Adopt a pet.

One way to foster emotional intelligence in children is to give them the privilege of nurturing and caring for a living creature. Boys and girls can grow emotionally as they learn to meet basic needs, read nonverbal cues, see how their actions directly affect others, and more. As an added bonus, pets are reliable friends that will be there for support when our sons and daughters are feeling down. Donald L. Hicks said it best, “Those who teach the most about humanity, aren’t always humans.”

Teach nonverbal cues.

Let’s face it, recognizing emotions and feelings in others can be tricky at times. Play games where you make faces that mimic common feelings or watch people at the park to guess what they might be feeling. Kids need to realize that people can still feel sadness when they are smiling. Encourage them to “read” body language by looking for hunched shoulders, drooping heads, clinched fists, crossed arms, loud voices, and more to discover how a person is truly feeling.

emotionally intelligent lead by example

Lead by example.

We are our kids’ first and most important teachers, so we should model compassion and emotional intelligence. This makes it essential that we display emotional intelligence and handle our feelings appropriately. Strive to avoid name calling, gossiping, angry outbursts, harsh judgments, and more. If you do have an argument or confrontation in front of a child, be sure to let them see you resolve the conflict or apologize.

What tips can you share for raising emotionally intelligent children?

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Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t spark her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7.

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