“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” -Ann Landers
The benefits of emotional intelligence are plentiful. A Harvard Study of Adult Development found that close relationships, made possible by emotional intelligence, are one of the most important factors in lifelong happiness and health.
Other studies link emotional intelligence to:
- better physical health
- more academic success
- greater employment success
- higher financial earnings
- happier marriages and better relationships
- an overall positive outlook on life
Focusing on emotional intelligence from birth can really change the trajectory of your child’s success and happiness in life. In fact, a longitudinal British study followed people for 50 years from birth into adulthood. Their success and happiness in life was strongly correlated to their emotional intelligence.
So what exactly is emotional intelligence? What characteristics make a person emotionally intelligent? And how can parents instill those lessons in kids from an early age?
Five components of emotional intelligence
1. Self Awareness
Self awareness is a strong understanding of yourself, what triggers you, motivates you, what causes you to react—and then using all of that information to consciously decide how to act as a result. High levels of self-awareness enable us to monitor our emotions and thoughts to better understand ourselves, be at peace with who we are, and proactively manage our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. People with high levels of self awareness tend to have a very positive outlook on life and are usually more compassionate to themselves and others.
#raisingEI Tip: To build self awareness in kids, parents can use a robust emotional vocabulary everyday, explain to your child how you are feeling and how you process those emotions.
2. Self Regulation
Self-regulation is the ability to process and respond accordingly to the wide range of emotions and experiences we have every day. A child who can self-regulate is able to show focussed attention, control emotions, and manage thinking, behavior and feelings. A key to self regulation is giving kids tools that they can use to process all of their emotions and resist from labeling emotions as “good” or “bad.”
#raisingEI Tip: Parents can use and teach deep conscious breathing to build self regulation—it’s an effective technique to use for processing ALL emotions.
Motivation is the reason someone acts or behaves in a certain way. There are several different types of motivation. External (extrinsic) motivation is driven by other people, rewards, and other outside factors. Internal (intrinsic) motivation comes from within and is driven by personal satisfaction or accomplishment.
#raisingEI TIP: Parents can build inner drive by avoiding the word “no;” always give the “why” to teach kids the motivation behind the action.
Empathy is recognizing or sensing someone else’s feelings combined with the ability to understand their actions by putting yourself in their shoes. It’s the root of gratitude, selflessness, and healthy human connection.
#raisingEI TIP: Parents can model the behavior you want to see from their children; use every opportunity to model empathy and explain to your child how you’re being empathetic in a situation.
5. Social Skills
Social Skills are the way in which we interact with each other, the ability to read a social situation, behave according to social norms, understand verbal and non verbal cues.
#raisingEI TIP: Start a daily family gratitude practice. See how to start in this post.
Parenting with emotional intelligence
With the holidays fast approaching, here are my top 3 tips parents can use to raise emotional intelligence in their kids this winter.
Tip 1: Make holiday meals matter
Holidays often revolve around family get-togethers and holiday meals. This winter, add a new family tradition by inviting a family in need to join you. Introducing your children to a family in need and sharing a meal together helps to build emotional intelligence traits of empathy and awareness of others. By inviting a family in need into your home or preparing a meal with your kids and taking it to their home, the family tradition will leave you and your kids feeling grateful this season, and excited to do it again next time!
Tip 2: Make present time family time
Opening presents has become a staple of the holiday season. Incorporate an emotional intelligence lesson by planning a family activity in lieu of one gift this year. Families can do this activity individually or in teams; each person or team plans a family activity and decides which item(s) on their list to forego. Parents can also offer a prize for the best planned or most fun family activity.
Tip 3: Make feelings memorable
Teaching emotional intelligence traits can sometimes be a lesson in the abstract. Create a photo book with highlights from your year together as a family. Use descriptive words such as gratitude, happiness, family, in the photo captions and leave it in a prominent place in your home. A great photo book can really set the best mood for the winter holiday and kick off the season with a focus on joy, gratitude, and family.
Supna is the founder of WeGo Kids and a mom of triplets. WeGo kids is dedicated to inspiring parents to nurture emotional intelligence in their children from an early age. You can download your free beginner’s guide to emotional intelligence parenting at raisingEI.com.