developing emotional intelligence

Our emotional intelligence is the ability to understand our own feelings and the feelings of others so we can get along with other people. Experts have found that our emotional intelligence is the biggest predictor of life happiness. If we want to help our children develop emotional intelligence we need to help them name their feelings then to guide them through how to find an effective solution.

Children with higher emotional intelligence are more likely to be sociable, cooperative, optimistic and able to solve problems. They tend to be better-behaved, less impulsive, and have a higher academic performance. They are happier, have more friends and are more likely to be successful in life. So there is a big impact on what we do as parents.

So what can we do to help our children develop emotional intelligence?

1. Accept our children’s emotions and emotional responses

‘That must have been really frustrating’ ‘Wow, you are showing me how angry you feel’ ‘That’s great, I can tell how excited you are’ ‘it can be tough when friends let you down like that.’ ‘You look pretty upset. Something must have happened,’

2. Help them label their emotions.

‘You sound upset’, ‘you look really down’, ‘I’m guessing you’re feeling really sad about that’ ‘You’re looking a bit worried’.  I imagine you must be feeling….’ ‘That must have hurt’

3. Encourage children to talk about their feelings

‘Hey, you sound really fed up about that. Do you want to talk about it?  ‘How did that make you feel?

4. Help them to recognise cues as to how other people may be feeling

‘How do you think that made him feel?’ ‘What do you think was going on for her?’ ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’

5. Help children be aware when their tension is building and what creates stress for them.

‘Are you finding this stressful?’ ‘There seems to be a lot going on for you at the moment –are you feeling tense?’ ‘I can see from the way you are clenching your jaw that you are feeling angry’

6. Teach them how to calm themselves down.  

‘Do you think a bit of time to calm down would help?’ ‘Would it help if you took some deep breaths?’ “When that happens again could you say to yourself: ‘I can stay calm’ ‘Everyone makes mistakes’ or ‘It was an accident’” ‘Shall we sit down later when you’ve had a chance to cool off and have a chat about it?

7. Teach children alternative ways of expressing their frustrations

‘How could you explain how you feel using your words rather than hitting?’ ‘Can you think of a different way to let him know how angry you are?’ ‘I don’t like feeling blamed. If you want something you will need to tell me in another way’. ‘Could tell your friend how that made you feel?’ ‘What do you think you will do next time you feel like that?’

8. Teach them how to problem solve

‘Shall we write down a whole list of things that could help, and then you could choose which you want to try first’ ‘What do you think would happen if you did that?’ ‘How do you think he’d respond to that?’

9. Teach children positive self-talk

“When you are feeling like that what could you say? : ‘I can handle this’ ‘I can do it’ ‘I just need to do my best’ ‘every day I am getting better and better’ ‘I deserve to be happy’ ‘I love a challenge’ ‘This is going to need my best effort’”

 10. Recognise what motivates them to perform at their best

‘What do you think you could say at the start of the day that would help you feel more positive?’ ‘I’ve noticed that when things get difficult you just keep trying’ ‘I can see that once you have a goal, you don’t give up until you’ve reached it’ ‘You said you would do it….and you did’ ‘I like the way you have planned everything you need to revise for your exam’

11. Teach children to listen and talk in ways that enables them to resolve conflicts and negotiate win-win solutions

‘How can we sort this out so that we are both happy?’ ‘What do you think she wants?’

‘What would be a good solution so you can both get what you need?’ ‘How could you explain that in a way she could hear?’ ‘I like it when you use ‘I messages’ rather than blaming me’

12. Comment when our children show self-control

‘You handled yourself really well just now’ ‘I like the way you stayed calm when he was raising his voice -That showed a lot of self-control’ ‘I was impressed with the way you used your words and kept your hands to yourself!’ ‘you really stayed calm when you were doing that puzzle, even when you couldn’t find the right piece –you just kept on trying –that was impressive’

13. Talk about our own feelings

‘I’m feeling really fed up about all the mess around the house’ ‘I feel so frustrated when I start to say something and you interrupt’ ‘I get really worried when you don’t come home from school at the normal time’ ‘I love it when I come home to a tidy kitchen.’ ‘I’m feeling a bit low…I think I’ll organise a night out with my friends’

14. Model how to remain calm and in control when we are angry

‘I’ve had a rough day at work – can we talk about this later when I’ve had a chance to cool off?’ ‘I don’t like the way you’re talking, and I’m not prepared to sit here and listen to comments like that’. ‘Hey, there’s something I’d like to talk about, is now a good time to talk?’ ‘I can feel myself getting angry; maybe we’d better go home’

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here

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