Emo­tional Ein­stein

Stud­ies show that emo­tional in­tel­li­gence plays a big­ger role in your child’s fu­ture suc­cess than his IQ. And un­like IQ, emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is some­thing that can be learnt, writes Sara-lea Wes­sels

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

FROM DAY ONE you can put the build­ing blocks in place to help your child make friends, have em­pa­thy, solve prob­lems, hold his own against bul­lies, be as­sertive, de­velop lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and han­dle the emo­tional chal­lenges of modern life. You may won­der how as a par­ent you can do all that. After all, emo­tional in­tel­li­gence may sound like a for­eign con­cept be­cause in­tel­li­gence is gen­er­ally not as­so­ci­ated with feel­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to Doret Kirsten, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of the North-west, emo­tional in­tel­li­gence can be de­scribed as the abil­ity to use knowl­edge of your own and oth­ers’ emo­tions to make pos­i­tive ad­just­ments to your en­vi­ron­ment.

Kirsten says emo­tional in­tel­li­gence helps you solve prob­lems and func­tion at your best.

“If you can read and un­der­stand your own emo­tions, you can reg­u­late and han­dle them,” she ex­plains.

A highly in­tel­li­gent per­son might for in­stance make a poor de­ci­sion be­cause he or she can’t un­der­stand how other peo­ple might feel about the mat­ter. On the other hand, peo­ple who are emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent are some­times more suc­cess­ful, even though they may not be smarter, than oth­ers.

Good lead­ers are of­ten emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent.

In his book The New Lead­ers, Amer­i­can au­thor and psy­chol­o­gist Daniel Gole­man writes that emo­tional in­tel­li­gence com­prises four traits:


SELF-AWARE­NESS means that you can read your own emo­tions cor­rectly, know your strong and weak points and have self­con­fi­dence. SELF-REG­U­LA­TION, in turn, im­plies that you’re in con­trol of your emo­tions, op­ti­mistic, flex­i­ble when cir­cum­stances do change and can push your­self to higher heights and act when op­por­tu­ni­ties arise. EM­PA­THY means you can read the un­der­cur­rents in pol­i­tics and or­gan­i­sa­tions or groups and you’re will­ing to ren­der a ser­vice. SO­CIAL SKILLS cover how you in­flu­ence oth­ers, man­age con­flict, go about mak­ing changes, work in a team and strengthen ties.

Gole­man says emo­tional in­tel­li­gence is not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing you’re born with but it is some­thing that can

be learnt. And you can start teach­ing your baby these skills from early on in his life as this will help him to one day pre­dict other peo­ple’s emo­tions and un­der­stand and reg­u­late his own – a win­ning recipe for suc­cess­ful in­ter­ac­tion with other peo­ple.

“Peo­ple who have a higher emo­tional in­tel­li­gence have warmer and closer re­la­tion­ships and are able to han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions a lot bet­ter, “says Kirsten.

Think of an­gry episodes you may have wit­nessed. The mo­ment some­one loses con­trol of their emo­tions and starts shout­ing or even be­comes phys­i­cally vi­o­lent, peo­ple lose re­spect for them.

Your child can only be­gin to learn the so­cial as­pects of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence (em­pa­thy and so­cial skills) when he’s a tod­dler, but qual­i­ties such as self­aware­ness and self-reg­u­la­tion can be learnt from birth. Here’s how you should go about it, ad­vises Kirsten: START WITH YOUR­SELF From about nine months, ba­bies start to ac­cu­rately read emo­tions in their par­ents’ fa­cial ex­pres­sions. Your baby will learn to man­age his own emo­tions by how you man­age yours. If you han­dle prob­lems with fits of rage or un­con­trolled be­hav­iour, your child will most likely copy that one day. Re­mem­ber how quickly chil­dren seem to learn lan­guage – the same goes for be­hav­iour. If you’re hav­ing a rushed mo­ment and you won­der how on earth you’re go­ing to get ev­ery­thing done, re­mem­ber that your baby can feel the un­der­ly­ing ten­sion. Show him how to deal with the sit­u­a­tion by sit­ting down for two min­utes and say­ing how you feel. Say some­thing like, “I feel rushed and I am wor­ried that I won’t get ev­ery­thing done in time, but I’m go­ing to breathe deeply and take it step by step” while you smile at baby. Set an emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent ex­am­ple for your baby from the start. RECOG­NISE AND AC­KNOWL­EDGE YOUR BABY’S EMO­TIONS Re­mem­ber that your baby’s not able to ex­press his emo­tions in lan­guage just yet. No­tice his fa­cial ex­pres­sions, move­ments and cry­ing. These are at­tempts at telling you how he feels and what his emo­tions are.

A baby that’s left to cry learns that his needs or emo­tions aren’t im­por­tant. Ac­knowl­edge that your baby has emo­tions and needs, meet his needs, and try and un­der­stand his emo­tions.

When they be­come older, boys are of­ten sup­pressed emo­tion­ally. They’re taught they’re not al­lowed to cry and al­ways have to be strong and that they’re not al­lowed to feel pain or be sad. Don’t deprive your child, es­pe­cially your boy, of his emo­tions by hav­ing these ex­pec­ta­tions. Rather strengthen his emo­tions, so that he can bet­ter un­der­stand the emo­tions of oth­ers and also un­der­stand his own feel­ings. CRE­ATE AN EMO­TION­ALLY SAFE EN­VI­RON­MENT Soothe your child, touch him, talk to him and show him with your fa­cial ex­pres­sions that you en­joy be­ing with him. If you’re with him, you feel hap­pi­ness. And even if he’s still a baby, you can start teach­ing him the names of emo­tions.

Some peo­ple cry when they’re an­gry, yet cry­ing is as­so­ci­ated with sad­ness. Teach him not to hide one emo­tion in­side an­other one such as by cry­ing when he’s ac­tu­ally an­gry.


Tell your baby what emo­tion you’re read­ing in his face. In this way he learns to voice his own emo­tions when he starts talk­ing and will be able to bet­ter ex­press him­self.

If he starts laugh­ing and be­comes ex­cited at the sight of his Gogo, say, “You’re happy to see Granny, look at how you’re grin­ning” or “You’re ex­cited when Ouma comes to visit be­cause you wave your arms.”

If some­thing or some­one makes you an­gry, don’t scold – rather de­scribe how you feel in the mo­ment. Rather than call some­one an id­iot, say that you’re an­gry with him.


Par­ents who aren’t emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent them­selves can ruin their chil­dren’s emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. A baby learns from the ex­am­ple you set and mim­ics you.

An en­vi­ron­ment where there’s emo­tional, phys­i­cal or ver­bal abuse smoth­ers the devel­op­ment of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. These kind of cir­cum­stances are detri­men­tal to adults, and even more so to ba­bies and chil­dren. You’ll also find re­spect for the emo­tions of oth­ers miss­ing in these sit­u­a­tions.

In a nut­shell: Teach your child from the get-go that emo­tions are things you can’t choose, like your arms, for in­stance, but you do have a choice about how you’re go­ing to be us­ing them. YB

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