Mother explaining emotional intelligence to child

Helping children understand what they are feeling will further develop their emotional intelligence

It seems that every parenting magazine you pick up today is filled with pamphlets advertising talks and workshops for parents on the topic of emotional intelligence. What on earth is this? How important is it? And more significantly, what can we, as parents, do at home to promote emotional intelligence in our children and ourselves?

Dr. Rina de Klerk and Dr. Ronel le Roux have written an amazing book on emotional intelligence for children and teens[1] and in it they define emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify, understand and control your own thoughts and feelings, communicate them appropriately to others and have empathy with the emotions of others which enables you to interact with them on an emotional level” (p. 8)

To put this definition into practical terms; parents often say that all they want is for their children to grow up to be happy and successful and one of the ways to get there is to ensure that their children have a good, solid educational background so they can make career choices for themselves. However, this is not enough to ensure happiness and success as people have feelings and emotions that impact on every area of their life as well as on their behaviour and so we need to learn how to deal appropriately with these emotions. Ideally, a child should learn to understand their own needs and wants as well as those of others and develop feelings of empathy, as well as learn to interact positively and appropriately with adults, peers, family and friends. This will help to develop a well-rounded, socially mature personality and this is the kind of person who will be said to have emotional intelligence.

[1] “A practical guide for parents and teachers; emotional intelligence for children and teens”, 2003, Human & Rousseau Publishers, Cape Town