Emotional Intelligence In Kids: Importance And Ways To Enhance It

Children can learn emotional intelligence; all you need to do is tell them how.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, MD Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri Dr. Maymunah Yusuf KadiriMD facebook_icontwitter_iconinsta_icon Specialty: Psychiatrist, motivational speaker, writerExperience: 15 years
Written by Pallavi Lakhotia
Last Updated on

Every parent desires that their child be successful in life, for which both academic and extra-curricular achievements go a long way toward paving their future. While you may be familiar with the significance of having a high intelligence quotient (IQ), the importance of emotional intelligence for kids (EQ) cannot be undermined.

EQ is the ability to perceive, analyze, and control your emotions appropriately. A child with a good EQ can empathize with others and may have good communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Emotionally intelligent children can also understand others better and keep a level head in difficult situations.

This post discusses the importance of EQ for children and offers some advice on raising an emotionally intelligent child.

Importance Of Emotional Intelligence For Children

Emotional intelligence helps improve your child’s natural ability to control unpleasant reactions or emotions in tough and sensitive situations. This could have a lasting and positive impact on them. Keep reading as we tell you why EQ is critical for children (1).

  • Better relationships

The ability to manage and control emotions can help children maintain their current relationships better and help build new ones. Emotional intelligence makes it easier to build new friendships and adapt to any new environment.

  • Improved mental health

Controlling the mind is a challenging task, as negative thoughts keep spiraling often. Having the emotional intelligence to control negative emotions can help a child rationalize them better and probably even eliminate them.

  • Stress reduction

Education can be stressful at times and constant stress can hamper the child’s productivity. Moreover, high-stress levels translate to high cortisol levels and affect the child’s physical health. EQ can assist a child to withstand stressful situations and environments.

  • Higher EQ means higher IQ

Negative emotions such as anger, sadness, jealousy, and disappointment can hamper your child’s ability to think and function in their everyday life. They cannot give their 100 percent in productive activities. But with a strong EQ, the child will be better positioned to keep their emotions under check and focus on their tasks.

Besides, EQ also helps a child

  • Fight difficult situations rather than running away from them.
  • Understand others better, rather than being too judgmental.
  • Maintain their calm when somebody has hurt them or caused them discomfort.
  • Have a clear mind by disallowing negative thoughts to plague their mind.
  • Have a successful career because of a broader perspective on things.
  • Achieve academic excellence by compartmentalizing their thoughts and feelings to focus better on their studies

35+ Ways To Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids

Here are a few effective ways in which you could help your child become emotionally intelligent.

1. Identify their emotions

It’s important to identify the emotions your child displays. Sometimes, when they are angry, frustrated, or irritated, they may not know what these new emotions are. Help them identify these emotions and discuss them with your child.

2. Listen to their feelings

Sometimes, your child may feel irritated by the other children at school or may not act friendly with a certain child. They may have a reason for displaying such behavior, and it’s best you talk to them and ask them why they feel a certain way. When you open up with them, you can help them turn these negative feelings into positive ones, and in turn, improve their mood.

3. Show empathy

When your child is upset or hurt, rather than trivializing their feelings or dismissing them, validate them by showing empathy. For instance, if your child fails to get ready for school in time, do not yell or react with frustration. Instead, calmly explain to them the value of time and the importance of punctuality. When your child sees that you know how they feel, they’ll be more motivated to follow your instructions and also become more empathetic towards others.

4. Teach them problem-solving

A major part of building emotional intelligence is learning how to solve problems. Once you label and address your child’s feelings, help them figure out how to overcome the problem with an effective solution. Brainstorm different ideas and pick the best option. Similarly, when your child goes wrong or makes mistakes, work to correct the issue. Rather than solving their problem, guide them. This will ensure they learn to solve problems on their own.

5. Lead by example

It’s essential to communicate with your child about how you feel about certain things, why you think a certain way, and how you deal with your problems. This will help them understand that you face similar issues and get an idea of how you deal with them. If they ever face a similar situation, they will be able to employ your strategy.

6. Discuss emotions and experiences

As children grow, they’ll go through different experiences and have different emotions, some of which might be entirely new to them. At such times, talk to them about the new experiences and emotions. Whether it’s children’s movies, playing games, coloring, or outdoor camping, anytime and anywhere is a good time for emotional check-ins.

7. Teach them how to cope with challenges

Negative emotions, intense emotions, and stressors are a part of life. So, coping strategies will come in handy in their entire life. The sooner you teach them how to effectively manage a challenging feeling, such as frustration or fear, the better they will be able to handle real-life situations, evolve, and grow maturely.

8. Practice gratitude

Gratitude strengthens relationships. Help your children notice the things they have in their lives and be grateful for them. Use “please” and “thank you” more often in your conversations and show gratitude whenever you can to model similar behavior.

9. Model kindness

Children are like sponges; they can instantly absorb anything and everything. So, if you expect them to show empathy or emotional intelligence, you have to model it. Show kindness by helping a stranger or use kind words often when with your child. Such simple acts will not only change people’s lives but make you feel good too.

10. Take time out for community service

There’s nothing better than engaging in community service to teach kindness and empathy to your children. From food banks to Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity, search the Internet, and you’ll find plenty of volunteering options for you and your children. When you indulge in such activities, it gives your children opportunities to experience things first-hand.

11. Play together

There’s no better way to learn than through play. Playing presents an opportunity for many teachable moments and helps you strengthen your relationship and make memories. Of course, you need to give them time to play independently, but sometimes, playing with them gives you the chance to teach them a few precious essential skills.

12. Go outside

Being regularly exposed and connected to nature can have a significant and positive impact on the child’s overall health. It will help the child get their required dose of vitamin D, get more exercise, improve their concentration, reduce stress levels, and make them happier (2).

13. Label your child’s emotions

As a parent, you should understand the situations that make your child disturbed or happy and help them label their emotions. The emotions they might be going through may not necessarily be negative. For instance, your child may feel proud of an accomplishment and boast about it. While you should express your happiness towards the child’s achievement, you also need to help them understand that boasting is not a good thing.

14. Make emotional intelligence an ongoing goal

Developing emotional intelligence is always a work-in-progress. As new situations arise in front of your child, they will have opportunities to learn new things. And however high the EQ of your child, they will experience emotional ups and downs through their growing years. Challenging obstacles will continue coming their way. Prepare your child to continue developing their skills and learning new things in their daily life.

15. Practice ways to maintain a positive attitude

Emotional intelligence can help your child gauge people’s moods. Teach your child to maintain a positive attitude and mind their behavior and words when dealing with people. This could help them manage unpleasant situations. For instance, if someone comes with a negative mindset or displays rude behavior, emotional maturity can help your child remain calm.

16. Teach children ways to release their frustration healthily

Sometimes, the child may not be able to manage their frustration or control it. Teach them alternative ways of de-stressing and releasing their frustration, such as

  • Punching a pillow
  • Banging clay on a board
  • Banging a drum
  • Running

17. Teach your child better ways to express their feelings

Your child will experience different kinds of feelings, both negative and positive. What’s important is how they express and deal with them. When your child is in a good mood or calm, tell them how they should try to calm themselves when they are disturbed. Encourage them to use words and not actions to explain how they feel. You can ask them questions, such as, “Can you try to use words to express how you’re feeling rather than using your hands?” or “Can you tell me how you feel?”

18. Teach children to practice positive self-talk

In difficult situations, there might not always be someone around to cheer your child up. Explain to your child that they have to be their own

cheerleader. When they are upset or demotivated, they should indulge in positive self-talk. Using phrases such as “I can do this,” “this too shall pass,” “I can handle this,” “I love the challenge,” etc., can help them approach the problem with a more optimistic mindset.

19. Use empathetic language

When someone is disturbed, they do not want others, especially their parents, to add to their misery by pinpointing mistakes or blaming them. Using an empathetic tone and language is essential to avoid disturbing them further. You can use sentences such as “She’s unable to move around today” instead of “She’s lazy today.” The same concept applies even when you’re talking to your child about someone else.

20. Teach them nonverbal cues

Sometimes, a person’s body language can convey things that words can’t. Encourage your child to observe other people’s actions and body language. Their behavior and facial expressions could give cues of what they may be feeling.

You could play a game where your child has to guess how someone feels and explain why they think so. On getting it right, applaud them, and on getting it wrong, teach them.

21. Read to your child

Reading to your child helps broaden their mind. While reading, take a moment to explain to the child each character’s point of view and how they feel. Explain why they feel a certain way. This will help your child empathize with the characters and use the learning in real-life situations.

22. Watch movies with your child

Movies help the child see situations that they may see in real life. Encourage them to concentrate on each character’s emotions, body language, words, facial expressions, etc. Pause to explain to your child what the character did right or wrong in the scene. Ask your child questions such as, “Do you think what the character did was right or wrong?” or “What do you think the character must be feeling during this scene?”

23. Encourage them to get out of their comfort zone

You must have often heard people say that you need to get out of your comfort zone to succeed. The same applies to managing emotions. Rather than dismissing or ignoring their negative feelings, the child should address them the right way. Ignoring discomforting emotions can cause problems in the longer term. Encourage your child to face each short-term discomfort head-on and not shy away from it.

24. Look beneath the surface

There may be times when your child may exhibit erratic behavior or throw a fit. While the action may annoy you, the reason for the child’s unruly behavior may be an emotional disturbance. Rather than reprimanding them for their behavior, try to gauge the reason behind it.

25. Practice active listening

You may not always understand how your child feels by assuming what they are going through. Make sure you ask questions, listen to them actively, maintain eye contact, and respond to their questions. Acknowledge how they feel, make them feel that their feelings are valid, and help them come up with solutions to overcome uncomfortable feelings.

26. Role play to help resolve a conflict

Some situations with your child may be difficult to solve through words alone. In such cases, using role-play as a teaching mechanism can help. Make the child play the other person’s role and ask them what they would do in their situation. This encourages the child to think from another person’s perspective and understand why they must have behaved a certain way or said what they said.

27. Play the “What-if” game

Presenting hypothetical situations of what could happen in real life is a great way to prepare the child in advance for such situations. During your family’s leisure time or car ride, you could ask them questions such as, “What would you do if Sheena canceled on your plan today?” or“ What would you do if I told you we were going for a picnic tomorrow?” Such conversations help you understand your child’s psyche better. You can then either appreciate or correct the child based on their responses.

28. Learn how to deal with your own big emotions

Teaching is most effective when there is a two-way flow of information. Rather than focusing only on how the child feels or correcting their actions and words, talk to the child about how you feel as well. Whether you are angry, happy, sad, or frustrated, let the child know. They will observe how you deal with such emotions and adapt to them accordingly. If the child sees that you do not yell at them when you are angry, they will realize that they should control their anger in the same manner.

29. Teach your child to identify triggers

Another important method to help your child manage their emotions is by teaching them how to identify what actions or situations trigger their negative emotions. Revisit past situations and discuss what caused them and how they reacted to them or handled them. This helps the child learn of the triggers that could set off negative feelings in them.

30. Learn to identify your child’s triggers

To help your child identify their triggers, you should also learn to identify the triggers. Observe your child’s behavior and reactions closely, and notice what triggers your child to throw tantrums or exhibit aggression. Gauging these emotion-driven responses can help you nurture an emotionally intelligent child.

31. Focus on appropriate behavior instead of misbehavior

To help improve your child’s emotional intelligence, do not focus only on correcting their negative behavior. Try to appreciate and encourage good behavior. Children who are appreciated are usually more confident and emotionally healthy. However, do not overpraise the child and make them pompous. The right amount of positive affirmation can go a long way in making them emotionally mature.

32. Make your child work out every day

Working out or exercising helps release positive and happy hormones. It enables the child to stay physically fit and improves their mental well-being. In some cases, when the child is under stress or experiencing tension, working out can relieve stress.

33. Use indirect questions

Sometimes, your child would not be comfortable sharing what they are going through or scared to open up. In such times, you could ask open-ended questions to get the conversation going. You could also ask a few follow-up questions to get the answers that you’re looking for.

34. Own up to your mistakes

Children often learn by observing their parents until they reach an age where they can make independent choices. Therefore, it is crucial for you to always own up to your mistakes in front of the child, to show them that it is okay to do so. Set an example for the child and let them know that it is always better to own up and deal with the punishment or the consequence rather than lying or concealing the truth.

35. Expose them to new experiences and people

Encourage your child to talk to new people and make new friends with people of different cultures. This could help them become more socially outgoing and also learn from other people. You could also encourage them to gain new experiences by exposing them to new situations.

36. Discuss social issues

Exposing the child to facts related to ongoing social issues in the world or their region can help them become better human beings. You could do this by engaging them in healthy debates on various topics and encouraging them to read up on issues that affect the people around them.

37. Do not take sides

Children often turn to their parents after fighting with their friends at school. As a parent, you are aware that there are always two sides to any story. It will help teach your child better if you do not side with either party directly and instantly. Listen to both sides of the story, learn what caused the fight, and work at a solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is emotional intelligence affected by age?

Several research studies highlight that emotional intelligence increases with age (3) (4). According to a study, understanding and regulating emotions are the main components of emotional intelligence, and they develop with age (4).

2. At what age can a child control their emotions?

According to experts, children begin learning emotion regulation from birth through co-regulation. Over this period, they learn emotion regulation from their experiences and caregivers. Then, by 21 to 36 months, “they are able to better manage their emotions and can sustain regulation as they begin to discriminate which skills and strategies to apply in different situations (5).” However, they continue to learn emotion regulation till adulthood (6).

3. Are there tests to determine emotional intelligence in children?

According to the University of Virginia, no comprehensive tool exists to test emotional intelligence in children (7). However, several instruments have been created based on the measurement’s objective, such as to gauge one’s emotion processing ability or emotional functioning (8). Speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about tests suitable for your requirement.

The importance of emotional intelligence for kids is often undermined. The ability to control your emotions and reactions in unfavorable situations is a useful skill to teach your child. In fact, an optimum EQ can help them lead a fulfilling life. Parents play an important role in nurturing a child’s EQ. You can set an example for them by being an empathetic listener and teaching them optimism and how to deal with emotional surges. Appreciate them for their good deeds and help them identify their triggers for negative emotions. If you are patient with your child, you will see them face difficult situations confidently.

Key Pointers

  • Emotional intelligence refers to the ability of a child to process emotions correctly.
  • You can help nurture EQ in your child by listening to and understanding them, demonstrating empathy, teaching them problem-solving and optimism, etc.
  • Better EQ allows children to have less stress, better relationships, and improved mental health.


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Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, popularly referred to as ‘The Celebrity Shrink,’ is an award-winning neuro-psychiatrist and mental health advocate with over 15 years experience.She is the medical director and psychiatrist-in-chief at Pinnacle Medical Services.

Read full bio of Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri
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