What is Emotional Intelligence? How is it different from IQ? Why is it essential to foster it in children? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.
What Is It?

The first step in fostering emotional intelligence (EI) in children is to know what it is. Emotional intelligence is most commonly defined as an ability to recognize, monitor, and understand your feelings, as well as the feelings of others. It’s a way to discern various emotions, label them, and use that information to manage and guide your behavior or thinking. These skills help you to adapt to a situation, reach your goal, or connect with others on a deeper level.

In comparison, IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is the ability to learn and understand information and apply it to math skills, logic, reasoning, word comprehension, etc. Children with high IQs can be successful in solving challenging tasks and puzzles or reading at a higher grade level.

Why Is EI Important For Children?
Having a high level of emotional intelligence is crucial to communicate well with others. EI leads to better understanding and learning, more diverse and stronger friendships, higher success in school, and ultimately, increased career satisfaction. Developing these skills in their formative years becomes the foundation for good habits and traits as children grow and mature. Fostering EI in children teaches them empathy, sympathy, perseverance, teamwork, and leadership, as well as self-control and the ability to delay gratification.

How Can We Foster EI?
Emotional intelligence can be fostered and instilled at a young age by encouraging children to think about others, share toys, cooperate, play as a team, and put themselves in a classmate’s shoes. Understanding and empathy can lead to more cooperation and kindness between children and less bullying in school.

Teach Active Listening
Active listening is more than just paying attention. It is key to creating authentic, two-way communication. It involves sincerely focusing on the conversation and, by using your body language and words, showing that you understand what the speaker is saying and respond appropriately.
By not using active listening in the classroom, children can misinterpret a teacher’s or fellow student’s comment. A common mistake is for a child to misunderstand a statement as a personal slight or adverse judgment; another error is for them to be thinking of a reply before the other person has finished talking. They don’t hear – or carefully listen to – what is being said.

Expand Children’s Vocabulary
A significant way to help children enhance their emotional intelligence is to increase their vocabulary concerning describing how they feel. Students should understand the difference between “angry” and “upset,” “sad” and “disappointed,” and even “excited” and “anxious.” Teach them how to identify their feelings and develop an appropriate strategy to express them.
A fun and simple way to teach children about emotional vocabulary is to play a game with the alphabet. Start with the letter “a” and list as many emotions as they can beginning with each letter. Discuss how each emotion is different, how it might be elicited, and how a person should appropriately respond to the feeling.

Managing Emotions
It makes a person feel understood and cared for when their thoughts and feelings are accurately reflected back to them. This, in turn, increases the possibility of support, empathy, and collaboration. In general, children develop a sense of emotional intelligence by watching others – including family members, neighbors, teachers, and fellow students. Using words such as “I see,” “I understand,” or “That must make you feel…” can assist children in expressing their understanding of others.

Giving children the ability to manage their feelings, thoughts, and actions is one of the best ways to help them succeed in life. It helps them develop self-control. This is especially important when heading into their teen years when impulse control is at its lowest and attention seeking is at its highest.

And finally, children are spending obscene amounts of time alone and in front of computer screens. It is more important than ever to foster their emotional intelligence to enhance their communication abilities, reduce bullying, and increase leadership skills.