How emotional intelligence helps children

The power of emotional intelligence

We often hide, suppress, or control our emotions because we’ve learned that it’s wise. However, children generally wear their emotions on their sleeve for anyone to see.

Sometimes our emotions burst out because we can’t contain them any longer, exploding and gushing over anyone in the vicinity. Similarly, the power of children’s emotions can take us by surprise, and their eruptions could be more frequent than ours because they haven’t yet learned how to manage them.

These unexpected emotional responses are sometimes described as an emotional hijack.  It can be likened to a volcano, tension builds up, erupts, and overflows, then calms down as the pressure subsides. In the heat of the moment, these outward displays of emotion seem over-the-top to the onlooker. Meanwhile, the instigator appears oblivious to their over-reaction and to the impact their outburst has on others.

​Emotional intelligence and achievement

If like me, you believe the experts then you’ll know that emotional intelligence is one of the most important catalysts for success in all walks of life.

Its common knowledge that people who know themselves well are better equipped to build stronger, more meaningful relationships with a wider variety of people. Understandably, sensitivity to emotional signals, both from within oneself and from one’s social environment, could make a better friend, parent, or leader.

The link between emotional intelligence and self-awareness

People naturally learn how to manage their emotions as they get older.  However, without focus, it can take years of trial and error before a level of emotional balance is achieved. Therefore, helping children to understand themselves and manage their emotions earlier in life is very powerful because it can give them a head start.

Fortunately, these skills can be honed, and the first step toward developing emotional intelligence is building up self-awareness. The thing is, learning about ourselves is not like studying other subjects. It’s much more personal and experiential and therefore exceptionally engaging.

It starts as a toddler or even before!

Developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence is something we are all programmed to do naturally! Therefore, everyone can (and does) learn about themselves, their skills, strengths, weaknesses, wants & needs, and most importantly, what they get excited about, what switches them on.

In fact, research suggests that self-awareness begins to emerge in children around the age of 18 months and continues to progress through a series of levels. Therefore, it makes sense that children’s prospects can be improved by helping them to take a more in-depth look at themselves while they are young. Accelerating children’s emotional learning through the levels can also help them get on the right path early in their lives.

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Gav Devereux

Author bio

Being labelled remedial and regularly told that I was a “stupid boy” affected my self-esteem as a child. I had to work hard to prove to myself that there was nothing wrong with me! This journey led me to found Mindscreen and become a certified behavioural and motivational analyst. My personal experience drove me to develop resources to help children find their stride early in life.

Since then I’ve been involved in many youth projects, including the Scottish National Debate on Education, Columba 1400’s Head Teacher Leadership Academy, and the Entrepreneurial Spirit Project. 

I’m honoured to have helped hundreds of young people to recognise their own strengths and unlock their potential.