Does your young child know their colors? Can they sing the alphabet song? Can they count their toys when you line them up in a row?
But more importantly, does any of that matter?
Children are good at memorizing and mimicking whatever they hear. They will be able to sing the alphabet song if they have heard it enough times. They will be able to identify colors if quizzed on it often enough. But how often are we focusing on these “tricks” to make us feel like our children are brilliant instead of focusing on the less tangible skills that will have more of an impact on their future.
Does your child communicate their thoughts without becoming frustrated? Have they established strong, healthy relationships? Can they negotiate with other children on the playground without being mean?
These are the things that matter.
Why Do We Struggle With EQ?
Self-awareness, empathy, and problem solving are skills that our children will need at every single stage of their lives, but there is are two simple reasons that these skills are often overlooked.
- It is hard to teach.
Building emotional intelligence is an abstract and subjective task, and many adults struggle with their own EQ making it difficult for them to help their child navigate these types of learning experiences. Working through social and emotional situations is something that frankly takes a lot of time! It can be uncomfortable to have to talk about feelings, and it can be very hard to see your child upset. It is hard to give your child space to learn their own lessons while giving them the tools to be a better person. And it is especially hard because this learning process looks different for every single child and every single parent.
- It is hard to measure.
When your child masters their numbers, it is very clearly measured. It is easy to prove that you taught them something, they understand it, and they will always be able to count things in most any situation. When your child improves their social skills, there is no definitive test to prove mastery. It is a subjective spectrum where there is always room for more improvement. The mastery of certain skills will depend upon certain days, situations, and moods. It will depend on the personality of your child and those around them. There is nothing setting in stone, and the moments that prove that you are on the track are few and far between.
How Can We Improve EQ?
One of the good things about trying to help our children with social and emotional learning is that we tend to improve the same traits in ourselves along the way. We reflect on situations and understand our crucial involvement as role models. We begin to see that we can become better parents, professionals, and members of our community when we begin implementing the same social skills that we are trying to teach to our children. Below are a few ideas to get started, & you can also download lesson plans for social-emotional learning here.
Talk about emotions.
Emotions are something that are natural and healthy, and they are not something that needs to be suppressed. Emotions can be felt and talked about, and then it is the response to those emotions that needs to be appropriate and responsible. You can help your child improve their emotional intelligence by narrating their feelings for them (“I see that you are sad.”) and by sharing your own feelings (“I am feeling very frustrated right now.”)
It is so important for our children to understand that their actions affect other people. If they steal a toy from a friend, that friend might feel sad. If they don’t listen to mom, she becomes frustrated. If they don’t take turns on the slide, the other kids won’t want to play with them. It is helpful as a parent to look at the world this way as well so that you set up rules with clear and explainable reasons behind them instead of arbitrary lines in the sand.
Problem solving is such a crucial part of social learning. “What can you do to make yourself feel better?” Is a very real and powerful question that requires time to think through. You can help your child problem solve in some situations, but it is also important for them to be able to navigate these social situations on their own as well. Once they can recognize their own feelings and empathize with the feelings of those around them, they will have a wealth of information to work with to problem solve and improve their EQ in the process.
Great social skills and high emotional intelligence will continue to be an incredible asset to our children as they grow and mature. They will have the ability to land wonderful jobs, become leaders, and raise happy children of their own. The bonus, of course, is that these skills also make that journey much more enjoyable for your own family in the years to come.