What is Emotional Intelligence and When/How is it Developed?
Emotional Intelligence is a bit of a buzz word (or two) these days. But what exactly is it and what does it mean for you and your baby?
“Many experts even believe EI is more important in determining life success than IQ”
Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to one’s ability to perceive, manage, express and understand emotions. Self-awareness and empathy for others are both highly related to EI. Some think EI is an innate characteristic, but most researchers now believe it can be learned and developed. Further, many experts even believe EI is more important in determining life success than IQ. After all, understanding emotions plays a big part in one’s overall well-being, communication skills and personal and professional relationships. According to a study from the University of Georgia’s Department of Child & Family Development (CFD), emotional intelligence predicts around 80% of someone’s career success.
The first year of life is a critical time for the development of baby’s Emotional Intelligence. During the first year, if a baby is well cared for, having received consistent attention from caretakers who offered appropriate responses to baby’s various needs, he or she will have come to expect safety and security in life. This is key to developing secure attachments . Other things parents can do to help develop emotional intelligence in babies include smiling often, showing empathy and understanding when baby is upset, expressing positive feedback for desired behavior and acknowledging and verbalizing feelings. Thankfully, by simply doing the things that come naturally to most parents, you are providing the foundation for emotional intelligence.
By the time your little one reaches toddlerhood and begins throwing their first temper tantrums, it may seem like you somehow failed your child already. But fear not- these emotional outbursts are perfectly normal and actually provide great opportunity to teach a child to manage emotions, therefore helping develop emotional intelligence. Parents can teach EI by calmly sharing their own emotions with their little one and demonstrating proper ways to manage the feelings. John Gottman, a well-known psychological researcher who has done extensive work on relationships and parenting, also offers these five steps parents can follow for “Emotion Coaching” in order to help develop EI in children:
1- Try to recognize your little one’s emotions, as well as your own: Recognize that emotions are a natural and valuable part of life. Also be aware toddlers can’t always name their emotions- but their behavior can offer big clues to how they are feeling.
2- View emotions as teaching opportunities: when children express negative feelings, use the experience to talk about the emotion and examine it.
3- Listen with empathy: Take the time to listen carefully and acknowledge what a child tells you, instead of jumping right to reasoning, dismissing or problem-solving mode.
4- Help your little one name and describe emotions: Toddlers don’t always have the words to describing how they feel but a parent can help a little one label feelings.
5- Set Limits and Find Solutions: Children need to know their feelings are OK but that some actions are not OK. For example, it’s OK to feel angry when another child takes a toy away, but it is not OK to hit the child. Instead, you might suggest your child politely asks for the toy back or tries playing with something else.
According to Gottman, a child with high Emotional Intelligence is better able to handle his or her feelings, soothe himself, control negative impulses, relate to other people and form strong friendships compared to a child with lower Emotional Intelligence. But the opportunity to help your child develop EI starts well before you’re able to employ the steps above. It starts with simply offering a baby consistent and appropriate love and care.
Given that the simple acts of social interaction, eye contact and talking with baby have all been linked to emotional intelligence, we want to help parents maximize these opportunities. For us, this includes the time spent walking with baby. With our stroller mirror, you can more easily offer baby the engagement and stimulation they need for brain development in the first critical years of life.
As always, we wish you and baby many happy and engaged walks together. xx