Have you ever wondered about where your high school valedictorian is today?
Recently, we stumbled upon an article pondering this question. When we think back to those individuals, many of us assume the smartest and brightest from our glory days are probably succeeding at this thing we call life. While this may be the case for some, surprisingly, research is finding that intelligence or book smarts aren’t always a predictor of future success. These findings are in stark contrast to what we have taught and as parents, make us question what truly matters when it comes to setting up a child for success later in life.
Thankfully, experts are finding that people with high emotional intelligence and resilience tend to thrive as adults. According to a study hailing from the Child Development Journal, kids who were taught to recognize their emotions have improved educational experiences with a reduction in behavioral problems and anxiety. And that is not all. Children who were taught emotional intelligence demonstrate improved mental health, learning outcomes, and social abilities today, and years down the road. Granted, education is still important, but understanding emotions just might be the secret ingredient to success.
This information can leave us questioning how we can teach our kids emotional intelligence. To help us on this journey, scroll through the following do’s and don’ts:
DO lead by example. From the time our sons and daughters are born, we are being watched and studied. It’s no secret that our children learn from observing us, often picking up our habits and vocabulary. This makes it important that we model emotional intelligence and demonstrate correct methods for handling our feelings. Avoid name calling, angry outbursts, unhealthy arguments, cruel judgments, stereotypes, gossiping, and more. Also, it’s important that we allow kids to witness us overcome adversity and resolve conflicts.
DO label emotions. One critical aspect of emotional intelligence is being able to identify and recognize the numerous feelings a person experiences. In the beginning, help label basic emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, hunger, and more. When we teach kids the words and vocabulary to communicate their emotions, we are empowering them to make sense of the world around them.
DON’T judge, yell, or lecture. Foster open communication to help children learn emotional intelligence by taking the time everyday to listen and encourage a child to share their feelings. No matter what the topic, challenge yourself to listen, This will ensure tomorrow’s teens will come to us with any concerns, strong emotions, or joys.
DO give opportunities to care and nurture for others. Children need plenty of practice when it comes to understanding emotions and feelings. We need to provide them chances to give back or take care of others. Get a pet or volunteer so a child can directly witness the impact their actions have on others.
DO explain nonverbal cues. The world of emotions is complex and even adults may struggle with recognizing emotions in their partner, children, co-workers, and family. Help kids watch for body language or cues that can help them identify emotions in others. Show them typical “body languages” like hunched shoulders, frowns, crossed arms, fidgeting hands, closed fists, and avoiding eye contact to uncover a person’s feelings. These cues are important to understand, because people often mask real feelings with words.
DO teach empathy. To help children on this path, we need to help them learn to understand other people’s perspectives or develop empathy. This life skill takes practice, but it has the ability to connect our kids to others, gain different points of view, and sustain relationships. We can help develop empathy by volunteering, talking about emotions, providing opportunities to form relationships, and learning to share.
DO use the power of media. Do you remember the phrase, “work smarter, not harder”? Take advantage of books, movies, podcasts, and music to teach emotional intelligence. Literature and cinema give us a unique opportunity to see the world from another person’s point of view from the safety of our couches. Choose material that offers a glimpse into different perspectives and an understanding of emotions. In addition, talk about the stories and discuss if there was an appropriate an inappropriate response to the events in the story.
DON’T give up! Navigating the complex world of emotional intelligence is complicated and takes years to develop. Keep teaching children to be aware of their emotions and over time they will get a good grasp on how to manage their feelings, maintain relationships, and improve their interpersonal skills.
How do you teach your kids emotional intelligence?
Gwen Lewis is a writer and makeup artist based in Southern California. Because of her passion for beauty and health, she hopes to help others not just look great but feel great, whether through makeup or her writing. In her free time, she enjoy shopping and pick-up soccer games with her friends.