By Randall Zernzach, MD, Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician
We all want the best for our child. We want them to be healthy, happy and successful. But, we place so much emphasis on their IQ and behaviors that we neglect the importance of understanding their EQ, and how it can make a difference in their personal success. Here are ten things you need to know about your child’s EQ:
- “Babies communicate with emotions before they learn to speak.” Emotions are truly “the language of infancy.” Long before a functional expressive vocabulary develops, children have a large repertoire of emotional expressions- anger, fear, sadness, joy, love, surprise, shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
- “Emotions, even negative ones, are natural and have a purpose.” Emotions are an essential part of what makes us human. They have functions for us that are very important. Feelings “inform” our higher cognitive abilities. Fear, for example, can serve to keep us safe and help us make good choices. ANGER can help motivate us to make positive changes in our environment. Sadness lets us know the extent of the love and joy we are capable of.
- “Negative emotions need to be validated, not dismissed.” Successful management and regulation of negative emotions is a prerequisite to finding long-term joy and happiness in life. A child cannot learn to manage negative feelings if he is not taught the first steps in recognizing them in himself when they are being experienced. It is very difficult to see your child feeling sad or angry. However, when you do not allow them to express the feeling, you lower their emotional intelligence.
- “Children need a safe environment to express their feelings.” A child needs a home where they are free to express their feelings and emotions without punishment, ridicule, or shame. By allowing children a safe expression of their emotions you increase their self-esteem, and build a relationship of trust, Home is the optimal environment for nurturing emotional intelligence, and connecting with your child.
- “Children feel emotions intensely.” Children are not able to easily control an emotion that surfaces (it may even surprise them!). It is best to coach children to what they can learn to control: what they do with the emotion. For example, “it’s OK to feel angry inside, it’s not OK to hit, kick or bite.” When calm is restored, a discussion about triggering events or solving problems can ensue.
- “Children need to learn and practice identifying, labeling, and managing emotions (i.e. EQ skills) at an early age.” Children need to be taught from infancy and beyond toddler years how to identify, label and manage their emotions. Like learning any new developmental skill of importance, education and practice is needed. There will be “failures”- lots of them. But there will be successes too as automatic neurological-pathways of response are established. Parents can increase a child’s EQ (emotional intelligence) by coaching and creating teaching moments in everyday home life starting at birth.
- “Encourage ‘I’ statements.” Encourage the habit of expressing what you feel instead of what’s wrong (or right) with a situation. For example, “I feel mad when you say mean words like that,” or “I feel happy inside when you share with me.”
- “Know ahead of time what to say during an emotional display.” Many parents “shoot from the hip” when trying to calm down an emotional toddler. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing at least how to start coaching your child through his strong expressions of emotions before they occur. And, most importantly, you are more able to control your own emotional reactivity and teach effectively.
- “Model appropriate EQ skills yourself.” Children are always watching their parent’s emotional reactions in every day situations. In many ways, children mirror our own behavior. Therefore, start identifying your own feelings, and be aware of how you manage them. If you’re angry and yelling, chances are you’ll find your child yelling too! Remember, “School is never out at home.”
- “EQ skills can be taught by parents and learned by children.” It is now widely accepted that a child’s EQ can be profoundly affected by parenting and environment. It is much less genetically predisposed than the IQ. An EQ smart parent can have an EQ smart child. Learn how to be your child’s own EQ Coach.
Understanding the impact that you can have on your child’s EQ is the first step to increasing your child’s emotional intelligence. Put your child on the road to a healthy, happier and successful life. Learn how to be your child’s own emotional coach visit www.babyeq.com.