Teaching Emotional Intelligence
To Babies and Toddlers
For parents, learning how to enhance the innate Emotional Intelligence of their young children is the key to raising emotionally healthy kids
After working with thousands of parents and their children of all ages over the past 20 years, I have discovered that they benefit greatly from learning the “how to’s” of Emotional Intelligence. As each developmental milestone is reached in a child’s life, these techniques can smooth the transitions, resulting in happier families.
Research shows that if new Moms start off using techniques designed to develop their child’s innate emotional skills, many future psychological and behavioral problems can be prevented. As with teaching a child to read, there will be steady progress and many rewards along the way. There is a large body of research on this topic, including the following:
Emotional intelligence can be broken down into five domains: a) knowing one’s emotions, b) managing emotions, c) motivating oneself, d) recognizing emotions in others, and e) handling relationships.
– Melanie Richburg and Teresa Fletcher
Emotional Intelligence: Directing a Child’s Emotional Education
To this list, I would add f) Learning from feelings, and applying new problem-solving skills to handle emotions.
Howard Gardner first proposed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983, which included both interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences. The concept of Emotional Intelligence was introduced by Salovey and Mayer in the early 1990s and popularized by Daniel Goleman with the publication of his book, Emotional Intelligence, in 1995.
According to these writings, each baby is born with a specific and unique potential for all the components of Emotional Intelligence. What the research also tells us is that many parents are not aware that their kids’ inborn potential can be greatly enhanced or undermined by parenting style. And even if they know that improvement is possible, most parents are not educated in the best ways teach these emotional intelligence -Time-In skills.
Parents’ intention is to raise great kids, and research shows that emotionally healthy children:
You can read more about the findings of Daniel Goleman and others here: http://eqi.org/eidefs.htm
How To Teach Emotional Intelligence:
Working with new Moms is a joy because we’re starting the next generation off on the right foot. In my work, I demonstrate how to discover what the baby’s actions are trying to tell us, how to meet his or her needs, how to resist “feeding for every cry,” how to play and talk with the baby, and how to address emotions.
I explain to parents that babies have the capacity to feel everything, and that they can sense whether things are good or bad at home. They are acutely aware of when you leave them, and whether you are sad or anxious.
Here is what one Mom said recently:
“After working with Ava for a few weeks, I learned how emotions can accumulate in babies
I had perceived my baby as just a baby, not a person with feelings; but now I realize it’s true that infants are born with the same emotions we feel and express daily.
Suddenly, armed with what Ava’s insights, it was no longer as painful when the baby was upset. I was given this blessing of new-found patience, and had an opportunity to pause and help her work it out. If only for a few seconds, then building up to a few minutes, I no longer felt a sense of urgency to quiet her.
Of course, one must keep it in perspective. If she’s hysterical, then going through the checklist is necessary: diaper, hunger, nap, comfort, position change, play etc. However, taking a moment to let her express herself is important. I never realized on an emotional level, because I understood it intellectually, that my child may be working through her day. Babies experience so many new things on a daily basis, I’m surprised they don’t find the need to cry it out more often!
I also realized that consulting with a child expert from the beginning is key. As Ava says, what you don’t know can hurt your child. Why fix things afterwards when you can prevent them?!”
Here’s what another new Mom asked:
“I just went back to work, so my baby doesn’t know what’s going on, does she? Yet her mood seems different. Will she think the nanny is her Mom?”
I told this Mom that of course the baby can tell that things are different. Her baby needs help working through the transition. The Mom’s instincts are correct.
How to Begin Enhancing the Emotional Skills of a Baby
Here is one situation I have encountered that demonstrates the need for new skills.
Although the prevailing theory holds that you can’t over-feed a breast-fed baby, I have a met a number of Moms in last few years who have, against the odds, overfed their babies. This is an important issue to address in light of the obesity epidemic. An overweight baby isn’t cute, and the idea
Over-feeding arises from being emotionally mis-attuned to oneself, and then being mis-attuned to the baby. The problem usually starts when new Moms, and even experienced Moms, become anxious or moody. That state of being can easily cloud the mind, and combined with a lack of sleep and/or experience, it can impede the ability to clearly sense the baby’s feelings.
Most Moms notice it when their child experiences a change in mood or behavior. However they may not understand the underlying meaning of the behavior, or know how to handle it in a way that works: by encouraging emotional development.
Over-feeding results when Moms begin “feeding for
Here are some steps you can take to enhance your child’s Emotional Intelligence:
Note: Learning new things takes time, so it could be weeks or months before you notice a marked improvement. And just when your child gets the hang of something, a new developmental milestone will probably come up!
Time-In Parenting: Teaching Skills and Redirecting To Better
Here are some ideas of things to say or do in common situations that may upset a young child. Babies talk to us with their eyes, smiles and cries and movements. We can teach them how to enhance their Emotional Intelligence, we just have to do it slowly and patiently.
When either introducing a new person or leaving:
When the baby bites your breast:
When the baby starts crying when during diapering or dressing:
When you have to leave them, for example to go to work:
When you come home:
While some babies seem fine, don’t let them fool you. They still need help learning to identify and express their feelings. The following video is a 3 min clip on how to begin Time-In parenting by teaching emotional intelligence.
For more info, visit the following:
Ava Parnass, a.k.a. “The Kid Whisperer,” is an author, songwriter and child therapist who specializes in marrying Entertainment, Emotional Intelligence i.e. Time-In not Time-Out for kids. Ms Parnass helps kids figure out how they feel through playing, talking ,listening,reading, singing and dancing.
Her multi-media materials, books and songs encourage parents and kids to read and sing along, in the process learning how awareness of feelings “Emotional Intelligence” improves problems and behavioral issues. Parenting is a hard job and the books and songs really help kids and parents put a finger on what is bugging them and change it. Her books & songs can be found on Amazon http://owl.li/7Qp5o