4 Easy Ways To Teach Your Kids Emotional Intelligence

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Four Easy Steps to Teach Your Kids Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, label, and manage one's own emotions and recognize and label the emotions of others.

Emotional intelligence or EQ predicts over 54 percent of the variation in success (relationships, effectiveness, health, quality of life). Children with high EQ earn higher grades, stay in school, and make healthier choices.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that every child must master but is rarely taught. A few lucky kids have parents who are intuitively emotionally intelligent. The rest stumble through life. Your kids don't have to fall into the second category because you can teach them emotional intelligence with a few simple exercises.

Most experts believe that teaching children to be self-aware of their emotions is the first step. My experience tells me this does not work so well. I have found in training lifers in prison for Prison of Peace that developing awareness of others' emotions is faster and more effective at developing emotional intelligence.

The same is true for children.

Here's how to teach your kids emotional intelligence:

Step 1: Watch a good quality children's video show with your children and ask them to play a game with you.

The game is to name the emotions of the characters as they come up over a five minute (or less) time period. Points are awarded for the most emotions named, regardless of whether the answers were correct.

The idea to develop emotion-spotting skills so that they become effortless and fast. Accuracy is not as important as quantity in this exercise.

Step 2: Play another game where you or another adult walks into the room displaying emotions, but without any words.

You can call this emotional Charades. Have the kids shout out what they see. Repeat this two or three times in a setting or more if the kids are engaged. Have them display emotions and see if they can stump the audience.

No words or sounds are allowed.

Step 3: Whenever your child becomes emotional whether happy, sad, or angry, label the emotion.

"Oh, you are sad" or "You are frustrated."

Keep the labels simple and use "You" statements, not "I" statements. Do not ask how your child is feeling; just state the emotions you see. Your child will nod his or her head when you get it right and will correct you when you are wrong.

If you were wrong the first time, just repeat the correction back using the "You" statement.

Step 4: Teach your kids to do the same for you.

For example, when they see you are frustrated, teach them to label your emotion with the "You" statement.

Practice these steps for 30 days and observe the results. If you can do one or two of these steps every day with every child, you will see a remarkable improvement in emotional intelligence.

Teaching emotional intelligence is much easier than teaching a child to read, write, or add and subtract. The secret is to know what to teach and then teach it often. Follow the four steps and you will have it down pat.

Let me know how it goes for you. I love to collect stories about these skills.

Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA is an author, speaker, and professional mediator helping people solve difficult problems. Get his latest book for free, plus shipping by clicking here: De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or LessEmail him at

Watch this video from PBS Parents on exploring feelings with children: