Stop, Think, and Act: Teaching Kids About Emotional Intelligence

It’s never too early to teach children how to manage their emotions. A large and growing body of research demonstrates that emotional intelligence is associated with positive outcomes in children beginning as early as preschool.

According to Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. It includes knowing what your feelings are and using your feelings to make good decisions in life. It’s being able to manage distressing moods well and control impulses. It’s being motivated and remaining hopeful and optimistic when you have setbacks in working toward goals. It’s empathy; knowing what the people around you are feeling. And it’s social skill—getting along well with other people, managing emotions in relationships, being able to persuade or lead others.

Increasing Emotional Literacy

A big aspect of emotional intelligence is teaching kids how to appropriately identify and label their emotions. By developing and expanding their emotional literacy (vocabulary), children can adequately focus on discovering and defending their true selves. And we know that confident children are less easily swayed by negative peer pressure influences.

With bullying and hate speech rampant in our society, we must teach our children how to nurture their inner voice. Identity is so crucial to a prosperous and healthy soul; personally, I don’t want society defining who or what my child is or will become.

The Stoplight Technique for Impulse Control

There are numerous techniques for cultivating a culture or environment of healthy emotional responses in children. One such technique called “The Stoplight” teaches kids about impulse control and how to respond when distressed, upset, or facing a problem.

The Stoplight offers children concrete steps for dealing with challenging situations:

Red light—Stop!
Calm down and think before you act

Yellow light—Think!
Say the problem and how you feel
Set a positive goal
Think of lots of solutions
Think ahead to the consequences

Green light—Act!
Go ahead and try the best plan

I’ll be sure to implement this strategy next time my daughter acts up or is in distress.

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