In our culture, we teach kids dental hygiene. We teach them to wash their bodies properly. We teach them to read and write and work with numbers. We teach them etiquette and how to say please and thank you. We teach them all of these things as just practical skills for life. What so often gets neglected is emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence? It is the acquisition of skills to identify your own emotions and recognize others’ emotions. It is the skills necessary to manage emotions. It is the self allowance to feel an emotion without shame.
IQ for the most part is fixed at birth and accounts for about 20% of success in life. The other 80% of success is attributed to other factors including emotional intelligence. Unlike IQ this type of intelligence can be taught and learned. Today I am suggesting a few small things that we, as mothers, can do to set the stage for our children to have high emotional intelligence.
One thing I have done with my kids is to give them the words. Simply by expressing our own emotions verbally allows our children to gain emotional labeling skills. Say out loud. “I feel ________.” A positive side effect of this is that it normalizes feeling and removes the shame that is often placed culturally upon feeling certain emotions.
Also when you observe an emotion in your child, comment on it. “You seem lonely,” or “You seem worried,” or “You seem elated.” This allows them to begin to self-analyze what they are feeling in the moment.
Give them opportunities to practice. While driving my kids to school we cross a bridge over the Columbia River. One day I noticed that the river looked so very different from one day to the next. I asked my kids “Look at the river, what do you think it is feeling today?” I do this about once a week now. We look at the river and offer up possible ways the river looks in relation to an emotion. This has been a productive exercise for my littles and pre-teens and teenagers. Give this one a try! You may not have a river in your town but you could do the same thing with a cloud or the wind or the sky.
When we do these simple things in regards to emotions we are giving our children the building blocks of emotional expression, which will lead to emotional intelligence. These simple patterns are foundational pieces of creating a family culture where emotional intelligence is learned. What a gift to give your child(ren).