How To Develop Emotional Intelligence in Your Child

parenting Aug 24, 2017

Are you familiar with how to put on oxygen masks on an airplane when traveling with a child? Of course, you're supposed to put on your mask before securing theirs. Developing emotional intelligence in your child is much like that. You need to ensure that your emotional radar is working and tuned up before you display and practice emotional intelligence with your child.

So, what is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), is the ability to identify and distinguish between your varying emotions and those of others; and using these emotions to guide thinking and behavior, and adapt to a changing environment. The six major emotions that humans experience are happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise. Men are typically known to have difficulty showing sadness and fear, two emotions socially tied to vulnerability or weakness, for fear of being judged as overly emotional.

Dads are also guilty of hiding their emotions to protect their family and loved ones. You may think that you’re preventing your partner or child from being affected by your emotions, but you’re actually making it difficult for the family to process and move past what may be upsetting you. This usually happens when men experience traumatic events like the death of a family member or friend.

If you're a dad who doesn't show much emotion, it's time to start. You need to be as much of a nurturer as your partner to foster intelligent emotional growth in your child. The way you express yourself is the first impression your child will develop of how males and fathers display emotion. That's super important!

Here are six ways to identify emotions in children and teach emotional intelligence:

Show your child that there are different emotions

You can use printed visual aids, like charts or flashcards, or even your own facial expressions to demonstrate and teach your child how to express and display varying emotions like happiness, sadness, and anger.

Help your child to recognize when and why they display these emotions

For example, ask them about a memorable moment and which emotion they felt at that time, or make up a scenario and ask them how they would feel or react in the scenario. You can also ask them to describe how they feel when they’re in different places such as at home and at school. This will help your child to associate certain events with emotions.

Encourage and allow your children to express themselves

Try to ensure you aren’t disregarding or devaluing the intensity of their emotions. Allow them to cry, be afraid or show annoyance, and then identify why they feel the way they do. Remember, these emotions are new to your children so it’s best to assist them in navigating their feelings.

Talk to your child about the emotions you feel and explain why you feel those emotions

In teaching kids emotions, it’s better to show emotions around your child rather than keeping them bottled up. This subtly socializes your child to recognize certain emotions and possible triggers, and the appropriate reactions to them.

Teach your child not to judge the expression of emotions as bad or good

This is called empathy. Emotions are involuntary, natural and necessary, so show your child that it’s okay for others to display them. This is very important in teaching emotions and emotional intelligence.

Improve your child’s problem-solving skills through the expression of emotions

Help your child to associate appropriate reactions to their emotions. For example, if your child is angry and wants to express this by hurting someone else, you should help them to reroute the reaction to exclude physical harm to themselves or others.


Psychologist Catherine Moore, in an article on, explained that children are emotionally intelligent when they express themselves freely, listen to others with understanding and can understand and process their own emotions.

“…even very quiet children will express their emotions in ways that are noticeable. While louder kids might be more verbal, more introverted children might sing, draw, or even write about how they are feeling. As kids develop, they will start listening more actively to others and respond in emotionally appropriate ways. You may [also] notice that [your child] is taking a moment to process something emotional. It’s often a slower process in kids, but it’s a big step forward,” Moore wrote.

Displaying emotions around your child not only develops their emotional intelligence, but it also improves your own! You may not believe this but openly showing emotions can actually allow you to reveal more of your authentic self to your family. Your family members get to see you for who you really are and how you genuinely feel. Also, being open with your emotions can improve your mental health and wellness. Acknowledging and processing your emotions makes you realize that you actually feel better after a quick cry or rant. Basically, it will benefit your family a great deal if your home is an emotion-safe space!


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