Guest Post by Scott Reddler
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand and control thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This field of study is not only applicable to adults, but has many benefits for children as well. Adults tend to underestimate the capacity of a child to process their feelings and emotions and as a result, many adults tend to view children as unpredictable and irrational. This could not be any further from the truth. The truth is that children of any age can learn to assess their emotions and therefore regulate their behaviors. Here are a few of the top reasons why emotional intelligence is so essential for a child’s growth and development.
There are many reasons why children need emotional intelligence, one of the first being empathy. Empathy is the ability to recognize what others are feeling. When children empathize with others, they are essentially placing themselves in the shoes of others and processing the situation through the eyes of the other person. Through empathy, children learn compassion and they learn to treat others how they themselves, would like to be treated. In fact, those with higher emotional intelligence are typically quite skillful when it comes to recognizing and interpreting the feelings of others.
Adults can teach children emotional intelligence and empathy by leading by example. For instance, parents can create a healthy environment at home where children are encouraged to freely express what they are thinking and feeling. When a child is upset for instance, parents can talk to their children and let them know they understand what it feels like to be angry, sad, or otherwise upset. In this manner, empathetic children will display a higher level of care that helps them forge relationships while also monitoring how their own behaviors influences those around them—whether their responses are helping or hindering the present situation.
Self-awareness is another important way that children can benefit from emotional intelligence. When children learn to control and manage their own emotions, and then reflect back on how they were feeling they can learn from these instances and make better decisions going forward. Parents, caregivers and teachers should keep in mind that children will process all types of the thoughts, feelings and emotions as they go about their day. In fact, researchers suggest that a child’s perspective—their mindset of the world around them—develops early on and will remain throughout adulthood. What’s more is that such a perspective is learned from the child’s experiences at home, in their classrooms and in society at large.
Children who learn how to tune into what they are thinking and feeling can better regulate their behaviors and will ultimately have far fewer stressful situations. In this manner, emotionally intelligent children have an ability to assess how they are feeling prior to reacting and are more aware of how their actions can impact the outcome of various situations they are presented with.
Improved Social Skills
Another way that childhood emotional intelligence is essential to a child’s development is that it will improves their social skills. Inevitably, children will have to make very important decisions within a social context. These interactions could happen at school with a teacher, with a peer on the playground, or with a sibling at home. Many of these decisions will be tied to how they are feeling or thinking at the time. Emotionally intelligent children will be able to communicate these thoughts and feelings better, they will be able to clearly express themselves, and they will interact with others from a place of courtesy instead of one where emotions lead the way. All in all, they will be able to make better decisions because they will have such a well-rounded perspective on how their emotions can shape their interactions with others.
Children will one day grow up to be adults and they will have many encounters where emotions may fly high. What better way to prepare them in life than by encouraging them to express their feelings and to recognize the feelings exhibited by others? This is what emotional intelligence is all about. Understanding emotions is such a valuable gift. Children will learn empathy, self-awareness, and improved social skills—these are all skills that will prepare them for a lifetime of success.
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