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’

Get help

Want expert help with your worried or angry child? Call Elizabeth on 01403 839683 or contact Elizabeth here to book a 90 minute One-to-one session with Elizabeth

Contact Elizabeth
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

20 Responses to 14 tips for Helping Children with Emotional Intelligence

  1. Ankima says:

    awesome artical!!

  2. Pingback: 14 Tips for Helping Children with Emotional Intelligence » Six Seconds

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Joshua for sharing my blog on ‘Six seconds -Emotional intelligence for positive change’. I agree with the quote on your home page – if we can learn to tap and use emotions skillfully we change more easily, lead more powerfully and foster stronger relationships at home and at work.

  3. Robyn says:

    Thank you Elizabeth and Joshua – I have many young moms around me and have passed these tips on to them. Because of my own circumstances while a young mom, my young adult children are having to deal with deep seated emotions and this certainly impacts on the quality of relationships!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Robyn for sharing these tips. It is never too late to use emotional intelligence, even with grown up children. They still look to us for comfort and guidance. When we reflect back what emotions we think they may be feeling, It is so affirming for them to feel heard and acknowledged, without being judged.

  4. Rafiq Islam says:

    Post catholic church recognizes children as born sinner or clean slate. A third premise is well known in the east. That is children are with fundamental qualities that get reinforced by good parents (that are role models) or get diminished with bad parents (that insist on reliving their past negative experience). If I have to give an advice to parents, I would say simply be what you want them to be. I have two boys and they both consider me their best friend. They hear me apologize whenever I even raise my voice. It’s because in my cognition, children are perfect beings, if I raise my voice I stand against perfect behavior.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you Rafiq for taking the time to write your comment. Your boys are very lucky to have you to model the behaviour you want to see them develop. And to hear you apologise will really help them develop their emotional intelligence. I would just add that children do need to have clear rules and boundaries too, to provide a framework, so that they can still learn when they make a mistake. I agree that every child’s emotional development depends on the skill we show as parents.

  5. Janice says:

    I was particularly impressed at how you included the section on discussing how we as parents can MOdel good self talk. This was really comprehensive and although I feel pretty good about my abilities in this area, this was really helpful. One of my sons gets quite angry and defensive when “criticized” even in the gentlest and most helpful way. I am struggling with helping him see that as the learner he needs to take correction. Having a hard time with this. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Janice. I have to say that your son is completely normal in feeling defensive when he feels criticised. We all do! If a situation arises it will help if you just listen to him and let him tell you the story in his own words. Reflect back what you think he may have been feeling. You can validate his feelings, but not necessarily his actions. Really spend time understanding this so he feels heard. When he is happy that you completely understand his side, ask him what the other person may have been feeling or if anyone could have interpreted his actions differently. Let HIM tell you. Ask what the injured party may have felt. Then ask what he feels could help them feel better about what happened. Explain that everyone makes mistakes. Your job as a parent is not to say anything critical, but to help him realise that he made a mistake and work out how to make amends. Ask him what he has learned or what he would do differently next time. Praise him if he is able to admit a mistake, and apologise. He will only be able to do this if he does not feel criticised. When the matter is dealt with it should not be mentioned again – forgive and forget! Hope that helps. Good luck!

  6. Aysegul says:

    Very very helpful tips, thank you. I use number 13 and have fantastic results with my 14 year old son. When I talk about my feelings, I don’t judge him so he stops and thinks. I love this feeling plus action method.
    When we was younger, at sleeping time I used to ask him to tell me what he felt good and bad during the day. It was like a game.
    Thanks again Elizabeth:)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Aysegul, it looks to me as if you have a lovely relationship with your 14 year old son- well done! A 14-year old boy can sometimes find it difficult to talk to parents – so I love the way you are listening and talking to him. And I am delighted you enjoyed reading the article! Elizabeth

  7. Alison says:

    Hi Elizabeth, I have a son who sees criticism when I am just trying to help him or correct him with homework. He wants me to sit with him to help him but then gets very upset and annoyed if I make suggestions, explain or correct him (especially in English, maths is more definitive and therefore less of an issue). How can I make him see that it is help I am trying to give him rather than criticism?

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Alison – we often have the best of intentions when we try to correct our children, but children feel criticised. It is very important to notice all the little things your son does right – all the small efforts and improvements that we normally just don’t comment on. Be very specific in exactly what you are praising him for, and notice every time he persists in trying. Try to ask you son what would help, and acknowledge the frustration he feels when doing his work. If it helps offer some free or cheap rewards for success in a test or time spent working hard – it may make it easier for your son, and a lot more pleasant at home.

  8. Erin says:

    What a great read.
    I personally have difficulties dealing with my 8 year old daughters emotions at times, and I worry that the strategies that I have used in the past have caused more damage to her emotional development than good. I am so glad to have come across such simple methods, which are so easily achieved. With both practice and time, I hope to assist her in growing up to be a emotionally balanced and happy person. Thanks!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Erin
      I am so glad you found the article useful, and really pleased that you took the time to leave a comment. Good luck in helping your daughter, and I truly hope that you enable her to grow up to be emotionally balanced and happy. Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  9. Amanda says:

    These are so simple and very much across the board with other strategies I’ve read about and workshops I’ve been to – all teach the same. This one is particularly easy because you have provided the language. I need to improve my own emotional intelligence and have found practicing with my children to be serious hands on learning. Do you have any suggestions for adults and their emotional intelligence. I was so easy going before having children but now struggle to keep my cool sometimes – like I’ve regressed to (near) tantrums.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Amanda
      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I’m glad the examples are useful to bring it to life. I think many parents will relate to what you said about losing your cool. Children have the capacity to push our buttons, unlike anyone else we know! It is really useful to have a good think about how you would like to handle your frustrations. Many adults find imagining a pause button before they react helps. Or saying a mantra such as ‘I can stay calm. He/she’s only a child’. Leaving the room can also help – so you can gather your thoughts before reacting. If you can say ‘I’m feeling very frustrated, so I’m going to go upstairs for a minute, and come back when I have had a chance to calm down’ sets a good example for your child to follow when they feel annoyed. Good luck! Warm wishes, Elizabeth

  10. Kaly says:

    I love this blog. I also have been reading numerous resources about postive parenting. I have a very strong-willed 6 year old girl and am currently struggling with making a connection with her. she does not trust my judgement on anything, either big or small and therefore holds her ground for the fear I might just mislead her! Usually it is, “No, mom! you don’t know anything!!” followed by 2 hrs of crying! I have tried to sit with her and calmly explain, but she just becomes argumentative! feeling quite at a loss. Please help!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Kaly. Thank you for your kind comment about the blog, and it sounds like you are really looking for some answers in how to deal with your daughter. Good for you. It is interesting that you seem to know exactly what is going on in your daughter’s head. Could you reflect that back to her? Maybe saying something like: ‘Hey sweetie, it must be so hard when you feel that your Mum doesn’t know anything and you don’t know what to think in case it is wrong. It sounds like it is really tough for you to know what is right and what is wrong’ And don’t add any counter arguments. Sometimes children just need their parents to understand what is going on and empathise, rather than explaining. It might just help your daughter realise you are on her side and see that she is struggling. Hopefully she won’t feel she has to cry for two hours after that! Good luck, Elizabeth

Comments are closed.