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We probably all know people, who are really good listeners. No matter what kind of situation we’re in, they always seem to know what to say – and how to say it – so that we’re not offended or upset. They’re caring and considerate, and even if we don’t find a solution to our problem, we usually leave feeling better.
We probably also know people who are masters in managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution.
People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is recognised by many psychologists as more important than IQ for the success or failure in life and career.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions, understand what they’re telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. Emotional intelligence also involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, this allows you to manage relationships more effectively.
There are 5 key characteristics of Emotional Intelligence:
- Self-Awareness – ability to understand your own emotions.
- Self-Regulation – ability to control emotions and impulses.
- Motivation – ability to defer immediate results for long-term success.
- Empathy – ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you.
- Social Skills – ability to communicate effectively with others, build and maintain relationships.
How can you help your child to develop emotional intelligence?
Relationship with you provides the first step to developing emotional intelligence for your child:
1. Hold your infant when he/she wants you and respond quickly to his/her cries.
2. Calm your own anxiety. It has been confirmed that parents’ touch, voices, and movements can either soothe a child or stimulate anxiety.
3. Accept and acknowledge your child’s emotions. Teach children that they can’t choose their feelings, but they can — and must — choose what to do with those feelings.
4. Demonstrate empathy. Your empathy teaches your child that his/her emotional life is not dangerous, is not shameful, and in fact is universal and manageable. Your child realises that he/she is not alone and learns to understand and accept his/her feelings.
5. Don’t shame your child when he/she gets hurt (e.g. don’t tell your son ‘big boys don’t cry’) and avoid repressing emotions. Repressed feelings don’t fade away, as feelings that have been freely expressed do. Repressed feelings are trapped and looking for a way out. Because they are not under conscious control, they can develop into nightmares and nervous tics.
6. Active Listening helps to diffuse intense feelings. Accepting his/her feelings and reflecting them does not mean you agree with them or endorse them. You’re only showing him/her that you understand.
7. Help your child to come up with an appropriate way to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting issue or situation.
8. Handling anger constructively is one of the most important skills you can give your child. When he/she’s angry, look under the anger for the hurt or fear that his/her anger is defending against. Use words, not force. Don’t let anger escalate. Breathe so you can keep listening.
11. Model emotional intelligence. What your child sees you do is what he/she will do. Do you start snapping at people when you’re under stress? Have minor tantrums when things go wrong? Can you stay calm during emotionally charged discussions? Do you empathize when feelings are expressed? So will your child.
12. Don’t let your own feelings to get out of hand. If you end up screaming, your children just feel picked on. They learn nothing useful and much that is harmful about how to handle their own feelings when they watch you indulge yours at their expense.
13. Don’t undermine your child’s emotional self-knowledge. Respect his/her feelings about others. If he/she feels uncomfortable letting Uncle Herman hug him/her, teach him/her to shake hands. Affirm your child’s ability to trust his/her own feelings. Children need to make their own decisions about relationships from an early age.
Sounds scary? Emotional intelligence is not my strongest point and although I put a lot of effort into improving my communication skills and emotion control, I still have plenty of room for improvement. However I try to avoid being a perfectionist. I believe that if I get 90% of these points right, it is better than nothing. And when I get something wrong or lose control of my own emotions, I do apologise to my children for hurting their feelings and use that as an opportunity to discuss how we can help each other in controlling our emotions and expressing ourselves in a more appropriate way. I think it is good for children to see that adults are also not perfect, that adults have emotions too and controlling emotions can be challenging for them as well. None of us is perfect and improving yourself is a life-long journey.
From Who is your daddy?
Online Resources on Emotional Intelligence: