5 Tips For Teaching Emotional Intelligence In Kids
A father and his 8 year old son are at the checkout of a supermarket as their trolley-load of groceries is processed and loaded into bags.
The son smiles up at the dad. “Mum’s going to be really pleased we did this.”
“She sure is,” the dad says with a grin reaching for his back pocket. The grin fades as he pats around pockets.
“That’ll be two hundred-and-nineteen-fifty, sir,” says the checkout girl brightly.
The dad gapes at her. “This is crazy, I don’t have my wallet.”
“Can you pay for the groceries, sir?” the checkout girl says less brightly.
“Of course, I can pay!” says the dad, a little indignant. “Just not right now, my wallet, it’s, I must have left it in my other trousers. Can we come to some arrangement? We just spent an hour filling this trolley!”
A moment later as the dad is being led from the supermarket by security trailed by the son. “I have money, you know!” he calls angrily over his shoulder. “I own my own home!”
And a few moments after that as father and son sit in a moody silence in their car in the supermarket car park.
“Dad?” says the son. “You need to work on your emotional intelligence.”
That’s pretty much emotional intelligence or a lack of it, in a shopping trolley.
Could the dad have handled that better?
Let’s ask the son. “Yeah, Dad was totally embarrassing. It’s like he was thinking they thought we were street people trying to get free food. Like, I mean was wearing brand new Nikes. He should have just laughed it off, gone home and got his wallet. It was only 4:30.”
Emotional intelligence is our coping IQ
Kids, adults, seniors, we can be as brilliant as we like in academic pursuits and still fall on our faces emotionally. It’s officially called emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ).
But let’s ignore all that psycho-scientific mumbo jumbo and call it what it is: emotional maturity.
That dad in the supermarket showed none of it. Possibly because he was never taught the ability to laugh off his mistakes. Maybe he was allowed to take himself too seriously as a child and never learned the key skills of emotional perspective.
So here are five tips to make sure your kids can put every emotional situation in context. There are ways to build emotional intelligence in young minds.
One: Name emotions
Whatever they’re feeling, ask them to spell it out, be it anger, disappointment or embarrassment. Do it in a nice way and even ask them to draw it if they can’t describe it. Whether you’re 5 or 50, a named emotion is an emotion you’re now aware of and that helps to make it an emotion you can deal with.
Two: Talk about the atmospheres in your home
Moods in your house will change. Guests will make it bright and breezy. After work fatigue will make it a bit flat. Happy, sort of sad, loud and raucous, quiet and still; a young child can find these house mood swings confusing, so explain what each means and why it’s all perfectly okay.
Three: Talk about you
If you feel great because you just mowed the lawns, tell your kids why; “Look at that. That makes me feel great.” Tell them why it makes you feel great – because it makes your home look good and makes you feel proud.
Expanding on a mere smile, a huge grin or an obvious frown and explaining why you feel that way can do wonders for understanding.
Consider the alternative: “Daddy was happy yesterday morning, but not when he got home from work. He was quiet during dinner and went to bed without saying goodnight. Then he was grinning and hugging me at breakfast. I’m a child. How am I supposed to deal with his mood changes?”
Be open with your kids if you feel good, bad or indifferent. They see it in your eyes whether you know it or not, so don’t let their developing minds live with their dire stick pictures of what Daddy’s feeling, tell them exactly how you feel straight away.
That’s a centred, understanding and emotionally mature kid in the making right there.
Four: Be open about places
Home is home and that’s where your kids will feel safest. But what about when you go outside? And what if your kids haven’t really lived long enough to deal with summer, winter, autumn and spring? And what if your kids have no idea why the supermarket is so crowded and the park is so open and green and full of trees and birds?
That might seem obvious to you, but your kids won’t know unless you tell them. Explain places, what they are and what they do and your kids are on the road to emotional acceptance of their world as a varied, strangely different place.
Five: Just be there
More than anything, be emotionally mature yourself. Don’t have a fit when your kids have a tantrum. Don’t dismiss their sudden mood swings as childish behaviour. Look where you are. See what might really be happening based on all you know and everything they don’t.
Then use all your own emotional maturity to add a little bit to theirs.
If you like the sound of all this, maybe you’re the kind of person who could teach other parents to be better parents. Find out about our Education and Care courses or call us today on 1300 616 197.
Read more about educating young minds in our Education and Childcare articles.