How to Develop Your Child’s EQ
February 24, 2014 | in Uncategorized
When it comes to making your way through life, developing your emotional intelligence (also referred to as your EQ) can be just as important as cultivating your intellectual ability (or IQ). Although everyone is born with a certain personality and way of seeing the world around them – some kids might be scorekeepers out to get their due, some might be naturally empathetic and attuned to others’ feelings – it’s important to teach them certain skills and help them develop the ability to identify, understand and manage their emotions in a positive way. After all, a toddler won’t see much logic in handing over the toy they want to continue playing with to another child unless they are taught the importance of sharing and how it makes other people feel when we’re generous to them – and when we’re not.
Annie Fox, M.Ed. and author of Teaching Kids to Be Good People and Too Stressed to Think?, calls this Character Education. “Emotional Intelligence, aka Character Education, helps children understand their own feelings and be respectful of the feelings, ideas and opinions of others. Building EQ skills is also about taking the time to think, reason and reflect before making decisions.”
This could translate to getting down on a young child’s level and speaking to them about feelings. In the situation of a shared toy, or even a shared friend as they get a little older, recognize their feelings and what they want, but also point out how the other friend might be feeling sad they can’t play with the toy or friend, too. Use questions such as “how do you think they feel?” and “how would it make you feel if that happened to you?” to let them make the connection and give the child positively reinforced confidence about deciphering emotional situations while building their empathy. Then, guide them to discovering a solution (what do you think we could do to make this better?) and point out the benefits of generosity (it feels good to do nice things for others, I’m so proud of you for being thoughtful, it’s more fun to play together, more friends mean more game options, etc.).
For a tween in your care, EQ development gets a little trickier. Hormones, social growing pains, school adjustments and outside stresses all work against EQ development. Annie Fox has created a five part plan for classroom use that translates nicely into a conversation starter at home with an end goal of creating a supportive and caring child (and hopefully a positive network of friends to hang out with).
Step One: “Understand the meaning of the word RESPECT and how mutual respect increases emotional and physical safety.” Talk about what it means to be respectful and feel respected, how disrespectful words or acts can hurt feelings and damage relationships (whether teacher-student, parent-child or friends) and how simple things like manners, tone of voice, eye contact, listening to others, not gossiping and keeping secrets are all opportunities to show respect (or lack of).
Step Two: “Define stress (a feeling of being off-balance). Examine what causes different people to feel stressed.” Stress is a reality for tweens. Academic requirements, competitive sports, friendship circle woes and responsibilities at home can all cause stress. Discuss what being “stressed” means to them and what causes it in their life. Talk about how it feels when someone close to them intentionally creates a stressful situation, such as little brother or sister hiding their school book to get a rise out of them, a close friend teasing them about a secret crush, etc. Talk about how to recognize stress in others and how to avoid triggering it. For instance, it might seem funny to joke about a blown note in the band concert, but that friend might stress about playing in public.
Step Three: “Understand the symptoms of stress on your body and emotions.” Talk about the physical and emotional results of stress. Ask about what they experience. Do they get stomachaches, want to withdraw and be alone or get angry? Just like the little one with the toy, talk about how friends or other people they connect with might feel when stressed. Learning to recognize that a teacher might yell when they are overwhelmed by a class who is acting up, a parent might blow up over dirty dishes when they are worried about something at work, or a friend might cancel plans to be alone when school’s not going well, increases EQ.
Step Four: “Understand how stress can affect behavior in negative ways. Making decisions while stressing can lead to regrettable outcomes.” Talk with the child about making bad decisions when overwhelmed and how difficult it can be to think clearly under pressure. Discuss how regretful moments and decisions might have been triggered by stress. Learning that freaking out when you’re stressed is normal and understanding the importance of seeking calm before acting will help them understand their own actions and perhaps those of their friends.
Step Five: “Introduce re-centering breathing as a de-stressor. Practice breathing while role-playing stressful situations and notice the effects.” Learning calming methods and breathing exercises as tools interrupts the building pressure and chaos and gives kids a moment to regroup before responding in a clearheaded manner. They can then share these methods with close friends.← How to Deal with a Sense of Entitlement in Your Charges | The 411 on Nanny Contracts →
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