This article originally appeared on The Family Focus Blog - author: Scarlet
My husband is a teacher and they have inspirational speakers come and speak to the faculty every so often. He shared with me that they had a speaker talk about EQ (emotional intelligence) and it is helpful in teaching children and helping them be more well rounded, and more well adjusted. He was impressed by the talk and ordered me a book about EQ- a very informative topic for parents to consider. So, I am very pleased to bring you some information on Emotional Intelligence from parenting and child development expert Denise Daniels. She will discuss some key traits exhibited by mothers with a high EQ level and give you a good introduction to the topic of Emotional Intelligence.
I want to have a chat about your EQ. Not your IQ (nobody wants to hear those numbers), but your emotional intelligence—because that is going to be a lot more important to your children’s well-being and success than your college degree or your vocabulary.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others, and to regulate your own emotions. That’s a simple statement, but it’s not a simple thing for either children or adults. Yet for children, it has huge implications for how well they’re going to do in school and later in life. While we tend to fixate on our kids’ test scores and GPAs, no less than Nobel laureate James Heckman, an economist from the University of Chicago, has said that “nurturing children’s non-cognitive skills [gives] them social, emotional and behavioral benefits that lead to success later in life… .” And kindergarten teachers have reported that a child’s EQ skills are more important to school success than the ability to read or to hold a pencil.
As a parent, your influence on your child’s EQ level is huge—through teaching, through conscious role-modeling, and even, or especially, through your unconscious actions. That’s why it’s critical to raise your own EQ before you try to help your child raise theirs.
First, know thyself. How adept are you at recognizing your own emotions? Check yourself against the RULER system created by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence: Can you Recognize your emotions,Understand what causes them, Label them accurately, Express them appropriately, and Regulate them effectively? According to the Yale Center, research shows that these abilities in children “are likely to be associated with social competence, adaptation, and academic success.” The first step toward fostering these qualities in children is to understand who you are and be honest about your abilities. Then you’ll be on your way to becoming a high-EQ mom.
Express empathy. Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. One shared trait of highly empathetic moms is that they are curious and genuinely interested in others; they’re also conscious of others’ feelings. To be an empathetic mom, listen to your child—put away the phone, turn off the TV, and be truly present, engaged, and responsive.
Listen to what isn’t said. So much of how we communicate is nonverbal: body language, gestures, posture, facial expressions. Knowing how you project your own feelings can help you understand what your children (and others) are feeling. Psychologist Paul Ekman, author of Emotions Revealed, says that when we can recognize our own and others’ emotional cues, we can adapt our behavior to the situation in ways that are more productive and appropriate. To learn to do this, use a mirror or have someone take short videos of you as you express sadness, anger, fear, happiness. Think about real-life situations where you felt those emotions, and let them wash over you again. Then work with your children to do the same. This will help both of you learn to recognize your own and each other’s emotions, even when they’re not being expressed in words.
Confront conflict. How many times have you heard people—or heard yourself—say, “I hate conflict!” Who doesn’t? But the real question is: How do you handle it? Do you stay calm? Yell? Cry? Conflict can be an opportunity to teach yourself and your kids how to handle powerful feelings and demonstrate positive problem solving. High-EQ moms know how to help their children think problems through and find constructive solutions. And when the conflict is between the mom and the child, a high-EQ mom expresses her displeasure with the child’s behavior, not with the child, by saying, “It upsets me when you do that.” Staying calm during conflict teaches kids that strong feelings can be managed. Yes, that takes a lot of practice (and a lot of deep breaths!), but it is a crucial component of emotional intelligence.
Let your feeling flags fly. Moms with a high EQ are not afraid to show their own emotions. They frequently use “feelings” words to describe their emotions, and use those words frequently in conversations to help their children acquire a vocabulary for their own emotions. They respect and validate their children’s feelings, and make their home a place that is conducive to the open and honest expression of feelings. They listen without judgment and without minimizing or dismissing children’s feelings. They provide opportunities for expressing and sharing emotions through play, music, and creative arts.
Our world is saturated with emotions. And there are plenty of ways to develop EQ skills in everyday experiences. You may even discover several of them this Mother’s Day. But first: Enjoy the day. You’ve earned it.
Denise Daniels is a Peabody award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert and author who specializes in the social and emotional development of children.