Many specialists in emotional intelligence (EI) claim it can be the key to a child’s development. There are articles on this blog and many prominent websites and the consensus seems to be that high EI leads to stronger relationships, better job performance, and an all-around more positive outlook. But are these claims backed by scientific research? If so, what can a parent do to nurture their child’s EI? Read on for 3 ways a parent can improve their child’s development using EI, because encouraging EI development and mindful growth is what Hoppy & Poppie PinkCheeks is all about.
1. Emotional Awareness
Teaching EI is a process that can be very beneficial when introduced at an early age. Emotional awareness is one competency that can be learned starting at infancy. Teaching a baby about emotion vocabulary by helping them name and recognize different emotions will prepare them to not only recognize their own emotions, but the emotions of others.
Studies have shown that developing EI competencies at an early age leads to greater success in school. This can help build a strong foundation that will strengthen those competencies later in life. As parents, your role in guiding your child or children on this journey is very important. But what are the best strategies for teaching EI and how can you incorporate it into your busy schedule?
John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute have been proponents of early childhood EI education almost since EI’s conception. On their website, they give a detailed guide for strengthening a child’s EI. For parents who are looking for ways to incorporate EI learning into busy schedules, adding books and toys to your child’s play areas that teach your child Emotional Intelligence while they independently play is a great approach. Instructing other adults who assist with your child’s care to incorporate these books and toys in their reading and play time schedules assures you that your child is developing their EI skills even when you’re not present.
For a list of emotionally-intelligent books and toys, check out this recent article on the subject. The great thing about approaching EI education this way is that it can scale in complexity as your child grows older. There are great books out there for toddlers, children, young adults, and, of course, adults. I, myself am still learning more about EI every day!
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
Negative emotions are an inevitable reality that some struggle with more than others. With the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation, negative emotions are likely at a prolonged peak. But research has found that children who demonstrate high levels of EI are better equipped to deal with symptoms of depression and loneliness.
This is a huge discovery for parents who worry about what they can do to help their child develop strategies to cope with their more difficult emotions. Part of improving your child’s EI through role modeling and teaching your child EI competencies, as it turns out, is incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your process.
One of the best things you can do to combat negative emotions and feelings of helplessness or insecurity, research has shown, is to meditate. Meditation strengthens the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses and keep things in perspective. For a child-friendly introduction to meditation, try the Headspace: Guide to Mediation if you have a Netflix subscription. I’ve written about its amazing ability to balance interesting, non-distracting visuals with educational and instructional guided meditations. The research really speaks for itself on this one.
3. People Skills
The so-called “soft skills” (empathy, listening ability, people skills, etc.) are an important part of professional success. Not only are they important, but many jobs are actually prioritizing these skills in place of traditional markers of intelligence and job performance, especially in leadership roles. But what do these skills have to do with EI? Quite a bit, in fact.
EI is the way to go for developing these skills. For parents, it can be difficult to maintain your own EI at all times, especially when feeling frustrated or angry with your child. But role-modeling, the concept of being a living example of what EI looks like, is a strategy that can make all the difference in your child’s life. What better way to teach them a lifelong skill than by putting it in practice every day. Here are some additional strategies for how you can be that role model, no matter how difficult it may seem.
Teaching emotional intelligence at a young age is important for every child at every age. It will teach your child to become a better person and a more capable leader. They will learn how to take ownership of and manage their emotional state instead of letting their emotional state decide their actions. Less often will they find themselves in a temper tantrum or a meltdown because they will be able to recognize how they can improve their emotional state and how their emotions affect others.
The strategies I’ve outlined in this article are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applying EI to parenting. For more advice and strategies, I invite you to check out both my product line of EI books and toys and the rest of the articles on my blog, hoppypoppie.com. Please let me know in the comments if you have your own strategies I haven’t mentioned here. I love discovering what works and doesn’t work for some families.
Hoppy & Poppie PinkCheeks and the Hoppy & Poppie Blog are not affiliated with the Hoppy Poppy IPA from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.