As parents, we want so many things for our children — good health, success, happy relationships, and purpose in life.
One thing we can do to try to guarantee these things is to help them develop emotional intelligence skills, which are key predictors for happiness and success.
How do you know if your child is on the right track? As a conscious parenting researcher and coach, I’ve studied the behaviors of over 200 kids, and I’ve found that those with high emotional intelligence do six key things:
1. They recognize non-verbal cues
Like an emotional detective, they are good at grasping other people’s feelings by picking up on their body language and facial expressions.
They might say, “Mom, my friend Sarah was really quiet today. I asked if she wanted to play, and she said no. I think she was sad about something.”
How to build this skill: Have reflective conversations with them about their day and discuss emotions they observed in people they interacted with. These chats strengthen their ability to read emotions and boost their confidence in understanding others.
You can ask, “What kind of a mood do you think your classmate was in today?”
2. They show empathy and compassion
They not only identify others’ emotions, but also show real concern and offer help.
During a playdate, for example, your child notices her friend looking upset because he didn’t win a game. She walks over to him and says, “You played really well! Do you want to play something else together?”
How to build this skill: The most powerful way for parents to inspire empathy in their child is to model it themselves.
If a neighbor is unwell, you could say, “I’m worried about Mrs. Brady. Let’s check on her and see if she needs help with anything.”
3. They can name their emotions
Emotionally intelligent kids are great at sharing their feelings.
When your child says, “I feel frustrated because I can’t solve this puzzle,” or “I’m happy because I helped my friend fix her toy,” they’re recognizing and communicating their emotions.
How to build this skill: Make it a point to label your emotions: “I feel disappointed that I can’t find my keys,” or “I’m a bit overwhelmed with all the work I have to do.”
This helps normalize discussing emotions, making it more natural for your child to do the same.
4. They are adaptable
A child capable of smoothly navigating changes in routines, or handling disappointing news with calmness, is showing emotional maturity.
When an outdoor picnic is cancelled due to rain, for example, instead of feeling upset or throwing a tantrum, your child calmly accepts the change: “Oh, it’s raining. Let’s have an indoor picnic!”
How to build this skill: Again, it starts with the parent. Being flexible and calm in our own reactions models adaptive behavior for our children to emulate.
Take it further by inviting your child to problem-solve and brainstorm a solution: “What can we do instead?”
5. They are good listeners
Emotionally intelligent kids can pick up on subtle cues that others may miss.
When you tell them about your day, they’re doing more than just listening; they’re tuned in and picking up on the emotions behind your words. They ask questions and show genuine curiosity.
How to build this skill: When your child has a story to tell, give them your full attention. Make eye contact, stop everything else you are doing, and get to their level. Reflect and repeat back what they are saying to show them you’re really listening.
6. They can self-regulate
Emotionally intelligent kids can handle big feelings, stay calm when things get tricky, and make smart choices.
Picture your child playing a game with friends and losing a round. Instead of reacting out of frustration, a kid who is good at self-regulation might take a moment to catch their breath, and then jump back in with a positive mindset.
They keep cool and carry on, even after disappointment.
How to build this skill: Resisting our own little “tantrums,” such as yelling or overreacting, is a fundamental way to encourage this skill in children.
You can also introduce a “pause and breathe” technique, where you teach your child to take a deep breath or count to 10 in difficult moments. Let them watch you do it as well.
When kids see us handle tough times with grace, it’s a lesson they won’t forget.
Reem Raouda is a certified conscious parenting coach and founder of The Connected Discipline Method, a coaching program for parents of strong-willed children. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok.
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