Coffee talks, Motherhood

How to teach your children emotional management skills and boost their emotional intelligence

Here I welcome  Peter Black,  a psychologist, and author of Cool The Volcano. 

The book is designed to help parents teach their children emotional management skills, and about how to boost emotional intelligence in children.

Over to Peter.

Emotional intelligence is a topic that seems to be quite trendy at the moment, and with good reason.

This is a skill which I personally feel is often overlooked in areas such as school, workplaces, and in many ways, our own homes.

Raising children is hard, I think we all know that. However, if we can help our children learn how to harness and strengthen their own emotional intelligence, the results will be incredibly powerful.

Reduced levels of emotional intelligence can be damaging, and as a psychologist with 16 years of practical experience in the forensic field, I can see the consequences for people who do not understand or implement emotional intelligence.

This was one of the main reasons I wrote my book, ‘Cool That Volcano’, as a way of helping people teach their children about emotional management and emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise our own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people. Emotional intelligence also includes the ability to understand the differences between feelings, as well as appropriately label them (e.g. angry, sad, happy, afraid). The final element of emotional intelligence links to the ability to use emotional information to help guide our thinking and behaviour, as well as managing and adjusting the emotion to adapt to our environment and achieve our goals. 

You may know people who seem to be naturally skilled at either calming people down or helping to cheer them up—these are the emotional intelligence champions using their own skills in terms of emotional awareness and management to help other people regulate their feelings.

A fringe benefit of teaching children these skills is that your emotional intelligence will improve as you help your child improve theirs!

Emotional intelligence really came to the fore in the mid-1990s, and for many, it was considered to be revolutionary, as it was viewed by some as the missing link in an unusual phenomenon that academics had struggled to explain rationally before that point.

At that point in time, the experts knew that people with average levels of intelligence tended to outperform other people who had much higher levels of intelligence, which seemed illogical.

Previously, it had always been assumed that IQ (the most commonly accepted measure of intelligence) was the central component in deciding the extent of someone’s success. It then became clear that emotional intelligence was likely to be the attribute that helped people excel, and that in some way, this was more important than levels of general intelligence.

The concept of emotional intelligence is subject to some debate in academic circles, but I’m not going to drag you into all that! There is plenty to read on the topic online if you are interested, but for our purposes, I want to concentrate on how commonly accepted knowledge on the topic can help us.

So, why should we spend time thinking about emotional intelligence, and what are the benefits for us?

Well, studies into the subject have shown that people who have a higher level of emotional intelligence are more likely to have greater levels of mental health, tend to perform better at work, have greater empathy skills, make better and more effective decisions, and have better levels of leadership skills.

Another reported benefit from an increased level of emotional intelligence include having better social interactions, and this is particularly true for children and teenagers who have also demonstrated that improved emotional intelligence tends to reduce the chances of children engaging in anti-social behaviour and rule-breaking.

There is a link between increased levels of emotional intelligence and higher levels of academic achievement. This is different from levels of academic grades or qualifications, but it does support the idea that better emotional intelligence leads to more achievements.

These benefits also continue into adulthood, with the improved social relationships and the ability to fit in remaining present. Adults with improved emotional intelligence have a much better sense of their own emotional abilities and weaknesses, and this hugely reduces the chances of relational problems such as aggression and conflict.

This also improves the perception that other people have of the emotionally intelligent individual—who wouldn’t want to spend time with an empathic, pleasant, and understanding person so in tune with the emotions of themselves and other people?

People with increased levels of emotional intelligence are much more likely to have better relationships with members of their family as well as intimate romantic partners.

I think we all know a couple who seems to fight like cats and dogs. Perhaps, if they had a boost to their levels of emotional intelligence, there would be less need for the fighting, and they would understand their own and each other’s emotions much more.

One of the more interesting relationships (in my humble opinion) is between emotional intelligence and negotiation skills. It has been suggested that the higher the level of emotional intelligence, the better the individual is at negotiating with others, as well as experiencing more improved work-based relationships more generally. In fact, it has been found that those with an increased level of emotional intelligence earn more on average than those with lower levels (not that money is everything of course—but it can be a nice bonus).

As stated above, having a higher level of emotional intelligence can lead to reduced chances of experiencing quite debilitating and generally negative situations, such as feelings of insecurity and depression. Having increased levels of emotional intelligence means people are more likely to have higher levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem, and they are much less likely to make poor health or other general choices. They are also more likely to enjoy the benefits of being able to manage stress more effectively and tend to be more resilient.

The great news for all of us is that just like other areas of our physical and mental abilities, we can improve our own levels of emotional intelligence.

Much like with other abilities, we can think about emotional intelligence as a muscle; with exercise, we can make this muscle stronger and more effective. Without getting too technical about it, emotional intelligence relies on relationships and pathways being formed between the rational brain and the limbic system; therefore, effective communication between these two parts of the brain is crucial.

Neurologists use the term plasticity, and this term describes the ability of the brain to change.

As your brain changes, it develops new connections as new skills are learned. These changes are gradual, and as our brain cells develop new connections, these can speed up the efficiency of the new skills we are learning, such as emotional intelligence.

So, the more that you use skills such as those covered in ‘Cool That Volcano’, and the more you help your children learn, practice, and use these skills, then the more you will develop emotional intelligence in yourself and your child.

These skills will equip them now, and they will also leave them much better placed to succeed in the future.

The more you use and practice emotional intelligence related skills, the more habitual they will become; as with most things, practice makes perfect!

As a thank you for making it this far and taking the time to read this post, please click here to access a free printable downloadable poster that you can use with your child to help them learn about managing their emotions.