Sometimes I notice those kids who let the other kid bat first, who don’t kick back when they’ve just been kicked for no reason, who empathize with the kid who has no friends and lets them join in and I think ‘wow’.
These kids are displaying ’emotional intelligence’, they have ‘the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups’. (Wikipedia)
More and more research is finding that if kids can manage the emotional side of life then their academic areas are boosted. If kids have good coping skills then when the bumps in daily life come they get over them more easily. Emotional intelligence leads to resilience which then leads to flourishing.
I listened recently to an on-line conference with Renee Jain. “5 things emotionally intelligent children do differently”.
The key is that these things can be learnt.
She has a website www.gozen.com and has done a lot of work in Positive Psychology, developing a program to help kids with resilience and emotional intelligence. Below are a few notes I made that I hope you will find both informative and practical.
1. Highly emotionally intelligent children can label emotions. They have the vocabulary to describe how they and others are feeling. Sad is different to frustrated or embarrassed. Words like hopeful, enthusiastic and zestful may be used. Parents and teachers can encourage kids to label their emotions. One idea is to make flash cards with different emotions on them or to have an emotion list on the fridge. (Google ’emotions’ and then click ‘images’ for lots of ideas.)
2. Highly emotionally intelligent children have more impulse control (self-control). They are able to have a gap before they respond to a situation. This can be taught from a young age. For example, when a plate of food is placed in front of a child, take a mindful moment to see what is on the plate and to be thankful for it. (These teaching moments happen in a time when the child is not upset.)
3. Highly emotionally intelligent children keep things real. They are able to notice the good things. When negative things happen they see the negative but can collect other evidence to think accurately. eg. When they do poorly in a maths test they may think, “I did poorly on that topic, but there are other areas I do better at.” Parents and teachers can be the role model in these areas.
4. Highly emotionally intelligent children are more empathetic. They experience their own feelings and then can feel how others are feeling. With kids both at home and school, one can role play ‘stepping into your shoes.’ This is good to do with the child role playing the parent or teacher!
5. Highly emotionally intelligent children have parents who have high emotional intelligence and coach them. Kids pick things up, so we need to be careful around them. We need to pause!
After listing these points, one thing I loved about the conference was that Renee then went on to empathise with parents. We are so busy and we can’t do everything. She used the analogy of ‘putting on your own oxygen mask first’ – making sure we are OK so we have the ability to effectively help others. She suggests picking one thing and have a mini goal. Eg have my child label 1 emotion this week.
Our society seems to live with a myth that we don’t fix things unless they are broken, but that is a reactionary model. We need to be taking opportunities to give our kids the skills for understanding their emotions even if they seem to be going well.