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www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu ã 1 FS-667 MAY 2006 BRIGHT BEGINNINGS #12 Sean Brotherson, Ph.D. Family Science Specialist NDSU Extension Service Instead of asking “How smart are you?” about a child, a much better question to ask would be “How are you smart?” Intelligence comes in different varieties, from athletic competence to musical expression, and people are smart in different ways. Among these different forms of intelligence is one that is very important to a child’s happiness and life success – em
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  www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu 1 FS-667 MAY 2006 BRIGHTBEGINNINGS#12 Sean Brotherson , Ph.D.Family Science SpecialistNDSU Extension Service Instead of asking“How smart are you?” abouta child, a much better questionto ask would be “How are yousmart?” Intelligence comesin different varieties, fromathletic competence tomusical expression, and peopleare smart in different ways. Among these different formsof intelligence is one that isvery important to a child’shappiness and life success –emotional intelligence.emotional intelligence.emotional intelligence.emotional intelligence.emotional intelligence. North Dakota State UniversityFargo, North Dakota 58105  Fostering EmotionalIntelligence inYoung Children What is EmotionalIntelligence? When dealing with our awarenessand use of emotions, being“heart smart” helps. If you areconcerned about health, younormally might think of being“heart smart” as taking care of your heart by eating right andexercising regularly. However,a person can be “heart smart” ina different sense. It relates to whatwe call emotional intelligence.Some research suggests socialand emotional intelligence isdistinct from academic ability,and it also is a key part of whatmakes people do well in thepracticalities and relationshipsof life. What exactly is emotionalintelligence? Emotional intelligence has been defined as a “type of socialintelligence that involves theability to monitor one’s own andothers’ emotions, to discriminateamong them and to use theinformation to guide one’sthinking and actions.” Emotionalintelligence also is referredto as “EI” or “EQ.” Specifically,emotional intelligence concernsthe awareness of our own andothers’ feelings, their influence onus and how to manage emotionsin positive and meaningful ways.Emotional intelligence relates tohow we recognize, understandand choose how we feel, think oract. “EQ” affects a child’s capacityto relate to others, interact andcommunicate, and also his orher ability to express feelingsranging from love to anger totrust. Recent work in the areaof emotional intelligence has ledto a broad view that suggests itcontributes in important waysto success in life.  2 ãFS-667Bright Beginnings #12 – Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Young Children Thinking About Emotional Intelligence Awareness of your own feelings and a child’s emotional responses can help assess aspects of emotionalintelligence. This learning activity shares questions related to feelings. Check your own emotional responsesas a parent for each question (“Never” to “Always”). Then consider a particular child and check emotionalresponses for that child, too. This is not a scientific evaluation, but it can help you think about areas of emotional intelligence to focus on for yourself or a particular child. 1.Aware of subtle feelings as theyare felt or experienced. (emotional awareness) 2.Uses feelings to help make bigdecisions in life. (feelings and motivation) 3.Bad moods areoverwhelming. (managing feelings of distress) 4.When angry, blows top or fumesin silence. (managing anger) 5.Can delay gratification in pursuit of goalsinstead of being carried away by impulses. (controlling emotional impulses) 6.Instead of giving up in the face of setbacks ordisappointments, remains hopeful and optimistic. (maintaining positive emotions) 7.Able to sense what others feel withoutthem having to say it. (awareness of others’ feelings) 8.Have trouble handling conflict andemotional upsets in relationships. (emotion and relationships) 9.Feel compassionate toward others who havetrouble based on a sense of their feelings. (empathy for others) 10.Can soothe or contain distressing feelings sothey don’t become a distraction to other things. (managing feelings of distress) Some-NeverRarelytimesUsuallyOften ParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChildParentChild  www.ag.ndsu.nodak.eduã 3 Raising EmotionallyIntelligent Children The area of emotional intelligencehas at least five critical domainsor competencies. These are theabilities we can promote withyoung children, even in theirvery early years. Five primarycompetencies of emotionalintelligence are:ã Awareness of your ownemotions ã Managing your own emotions ã Motivating oneself ã Empathy for others ã Handling relationships Parents and caregivers canfacilitate the development of these competencies as theyinteract with young children andprovide models for them to follow. 1.Awareness of YourOwn Emotions Personal awareness relates toknowing your own emotions,or observing yourself andrecognizing feelings as theyarise. Young children do notautomatically understand theirfeelings. They can benefit fromguidance in learning abouttheir feelings. Some ideas toconsider:ã Express your feelingswith words that indicate oridentify feelings. Adults canmodel awareness of feelings by explaining that they “feelsad” or “feel angry.” Thishelps children learn everyonehas emotions and a varietyof feelings are normal. Also,tell children you can “feelupset” but show them howyou can guide the expressionof those feelings positively.ã Be aware of children’semotions and tune intowhat they are experiencingto prompt various feelings. Watch children for changesof facial expression, physicalcues (turning away, puttinghead down, etc.), tone of voice or other things thatidentify a child’s feelings.Help them identify the“message” of theiremotions and tune in tothe experiences aroundthem that might be causingcertain feelings, such asfrustration or happiness.ã Help children verballylabel their emotions sotheir awareness expands. Children may feel uncertainor uncomfortable when theyhave strong feelings, andlabeling a feeling (“scared,”“excited”) helps them talkabout it and makes it morenormal. Realize that youngchildren have limited“word labels” for feelings(mad, sad, happy), so makesure they understand aword’s meaning. Also,they may feel a variety of emotions, and talking canhelp them label what theyreally are feeling. Make aconnection for them betweena behavior (look on their face,wanting a hug) and whatthey are feeling (e.g., “I thinkyou might feel upset becauseyour voice is really loud”).Finally, suggest feelingsthey might have  (“Yousound pretty angry” or“You seem excited.”) and not what they should ormust feel (“Stop being mad.”or “You don’t really feelscared.”).ã Discover the emotionschildren are feeling throughtrying to understand thereasons for their emotions. Children have reasons forthe emotions they feel, andexploring the reasons forwhat they feel and how theyexpress those feelings in their behavior can help. Also, youcan explore feelings and theirsrcin through regular play,pretend play or interactivegames and activities.ã Listen with empathyand validate the feelingschildren express. Childrenwonder how others will reactto their expression of feel-ings. Listen attentively tochildren’s feelings, watch forphysical cues of emotion, andget down on their eye level.Repeat what they said to besure you understand whatthey feel and they know youunderstand. Help childrenrecognize that feeling astrong reaction is OK, thenprovide guidance on how topositively respond if needed. 2.Managing Your OwnEmotions Managing your own emotionsinvolves handling yourfeelings so they are expressedin ways that allow you tohandle fears, anxieties, anger,sadness or other emotions in aconstructive manner. Managingemotions is a critical skill thatis important to living in ahealthy manner, accomplishinggoals and relating to others.Some ideas to consider:ã Recognize children’s effortsto manage feelings ofdistress and give support insoothing them. Even very  4 ãFS-667Bright Beginnings #12 – Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Young Children young children, such asinfants, will try to manageemotional distress by cryingfor a response, sucking athumb or pacifier, or avoid-ing what bothers them.Parents and others shouldrecognize such efforts andgive children kindness,support and love to soothetroubled feelings. Also, givethem words to express howthey are feeling. Childrenwho experience positive,caring responses to theiremotional distress willdevelop trust and confidencein themselves and others.ã Build a close relationshipwith children throughgames, conversation andactivities so they trustyou when they need helpin managing emotions. Children need to knowwho they can turn to whenemotions are building.Talk and listen, spend timein play, read together ordo other fun activities.These activities help buildtrust. Also, children canreceive daily input onmanaging emotions as youspend time together and theyknow they can turn to youwhen they feel troubled.ã Model positive responsesto managing emotions thatchildren can learn to follow. When you feel angry, sador upset, take time to slowdown and manage yourfeelings in positive ways.Explain to children how youfeel and what you are doingto manage your emotions(take a walk to calm down,think about being kind beforeresponding, listen to calmmusic, etc.). Children willlearn much about managingemotions from your example.ã Assist children to soothethemselves when emotionsbecome troubled and teachthem ahead of time whatthey can do to handle theiremotions. Before childrenget too distressed, they needyou to pay attention, givethem reassurance andwords, and calm them down.Also, you can talk ahead of time about what to do whenfeeling upset or angry, andsuggest ways to handleemotions, such as countingto 10 before speaking, askingfor someone to listen orwalking away. Planningahead how to handle anemotional situation can easedifficulties in managingemotions under stress.ã Together with your children,read children’s books orwatch children’s showsthat give ideas on howto handle emotions orstressful situations. Children’s literature ortelevision shows, puppetshows or other resourcesthat model situations inlife (divorce, sleeping over,first day of school, etc.)can share ideas on how tohandle feelings or situations.Use these resources toexplore possible feelingsand effective responsesto a variety of situations.Ask the child open-endedquestions about how he orshe would feel in a situationor what he or she would do.ã Provide children withalternatives to poorbehavior in managingemotions and give guidanceon what to do instead. Setlimits on children’s behaviorand how they may expressfeelings that are inappropri-ate (hitting, yelling at others,etc.), being aware thatchildren at younger agesdo not yet have the abilityto control some emotionalimpulses. Think of alterna-tives to teach children andassist them in coming upwith different or bettersolutions to a problemin how they managedfeelings. Brainstorm ideasand practice how theymight respond the next timefeelings become distressed.For example, a basic rulecould be: You cannot hurtothers, yourself or yourtoys (things). Help children recognize that feeling astrong reaction is OK, then provide guidanceon how to positively respond if needed.
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