Being parents to a toddler is already a difficult task and teaching him or her emotional intelligence – that’s a whole a new ballgame. One moment you see him crying in rage, and the next minute you see he’s throwing a tantrum and hurling toys across the room. Phew! Nobody said being parents was easy.
It is okay to find yourself overwhelmed when dealing with your toddler’s outbursts of anger and frustration, but there is a silver lining here. When your child is giving you a hard time, it is the ideal chance to teach him how to calm himself down and control his feelings. Teaching your little ones “emotional intelligence” will help them to communicate effectively, empathise with others and form positive relationships.
Why is emotional intelligence important?
A child with a high emotional intelligence or emotional IQ will be more capable of coping with his own feelings, calming himself, understanding and relating to other people. Research has also found that children aged 0-5 years with high emotional intelligence will find it easier to forge strong friendships with their peers. Emotionally intelligent children can also better control their negative impulses when things aren’t going their way.
You might be asking how you can teach a toddler emotional intelligence when you’re struggling just to keep him calm when he can’t wait to watch his favourite TV show. Well, according to experts, it is possible to teach such skills at an early age because children are more flexible in their emotional growth at this stage of life.
And where is the perfect place to teach a child these important life lessons? Daniel Goleman, a leading psychologist, believes that the family home is the first and foremost place to get these lessons across. So, do your children need home tuition for it? Not at all. Parents are more than capable of teaching this to their children.
How do you teach emotional intelligence to your child?
It’s imperative that parents impart emotional intelligence lessons to children as soon as they are born. For starters, respond to a baby when he or she cries, it can be because he is hungry or wants a hug—show him that he can evoke a reaction from people around him by expressing his feelings. By talking and playing fun games with your baby, like Peek-a-boo, you can teach him how to communicate with others.
Below are the four steps to teach your children emotional intelligence:
Recognise your child’s emotions
You can’t always tell toddlers how they should behave. If your child is upset or sad, find the root cause of it. Ask her what exactly is bothering her if you can’t pinpoint the reason. Look for the bigger picture in these situations. Toddlers often express their emotions and what they’re thinking when they play with their dolls or toys. If she tells you that she won’t show her Barbie dolls because they’re scared to come out, it is highly likely you sound too loud, angry or scary in how you speak or behave. So, to de-escalate the situation, apologise to her for your anger and assure her that you’ll try to be calm and talk more softly.
Help your children find words to express their emotions
Toddlers and preschoolers have trouble expressing how they feel. Help your child to develop an emotional vocabulary. You can do this by saying, “You are feeling sad about that, right?”, for example, if a family pet has died. Furthermore, you can make him understand that it is completely fine to experience conflicting emotions about something. For example, he can be both happy and anxious during his first day at school.
Let children be emotionally prepared for unfamiliar events
You can teach your children how to cope with their emotions constructively by giving them plenty of notice about unfamiliar events. If your 3-year-old daughter is scared or crying when thinking of a visit the dentist, talk to her about it one day or a few days prior to the visit. This will calm her fears down. Don’t blame the child when she throws a tantrum in the dentist’s room when you never told her about it.
Be empathetic when you listen to your child
Listen carefully to your child. If your child is sad or jealous over the fact his elder sister received a birthday present, tell him that you also felt the same at his age. Don’t go into lengths of explaining why this is fair, as it will not solve the problem. Rather assure him that he too will get presents on his birthday. Listening to your child doesn’t necessarily mean it will solve his problem, but it shows the child that even adults have these kinds of feelings and they can be handled.
This article was contributed by Singaporean tuition agency, SmileTutor.