Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence is the Key to a Healthy Social Life

For most parents, a child’s social success can be as important as their academic accomplishments.  Birthday party invitations, sleepovers, play dates and even those nagging telephone calls are the hallmarks of a socially successful kid who is off to a healthy start.

But not every child fits that popularity profile, and many struggle just to make a couple of close friends.  Others frequently tangle into fights or cower under the weight of hurtful gossip.  Some kids even have feelings so fragile that they prefer to be alone, rather than risk rejection.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence – Why it can Matter More Than IQ, believes that healthy social skills are seeded during the earliest part of childhood, and children who thrive in the classroom and on the playground often have certain key emotional skills that foster social success.
1.  Self-awareness – The ability to recognize one’s own feelings, knowing how to express those feelings positively and deciphering the difference between thoughts, feelings and actions.
2.  Empathy – Understanding other children’s feelings, respecting differences and finding a common ground.
3.  Communication – Talking about feelings effectively, becoming a good listener and a good asker, distinguishing between peer behavior and one’s own reaction to that behavior.
4.  Self-disclosure – Valuing openness and building trust in relationships with other children.
5.  Personal responsibility – Recognizing consequences for decisions and actions and following through with promises and commitments, both on the playground and in the classroom.
6.  Self-acceptance – Feeling personal pride and viewing one’s self in a positive light.
7.  Assertiveness – Stating one’s concerns and feelings without anger, blame or passivity.
8.  Group dynamics – Being cooperative and knowing when to lead and when to follow.
9.  Conflict resolution – Knowing how to fight fair with other kids and understanding how to negotiate a compromise.
10.  Good humor – Optimism, playfulness and the ability to laugh at one’s self, not only makes a child more attractive to be around, it can actually help solve problems more effectively.

Whether your child is just entering preschool or well into the grade school years, there are several key ways you can help him develop stronger social skills by raising his emotional IQ:
* Never ignore or disrespect his feelings, no matter how trivial they might sound.  Work the problem through with empathy and patience.  There is plenty of time to ‘toughen up’ later in life.
* Don’t soothe a problem without a solution.  Kid’s need more than just a shoulder to cry on.  They need pathways for constructively moving beyond an emotional storm.
* Aggressiveness and bully behaviors start at home.  Watch out for harsh punishments, mean-spirited comments or cynical attitudes that family members may be unconsciously expressing.  This model will surely lead to negative behavior at school and on the playground.
* When a child is in conflict with a peer, help him read the situation more clearly and find a positive way to compromise. If need be, encourage him to seek help from an adult at school.
* Don’t always assume that your child is in the right.  There are two sides to every story, and understanding his role in things will raise his emotional intelligence, and help him avoid future conflicts.
* If your child is excessively lonely at school, look for extracurricular activities that may foster outside friendships with like-minded kids.  One good friend can make all the difference.
* Strengthen social skills by encouraging play dates at home where you can observe your child’s behavior, and offer assistance if conflicts arise.

Goleman advises that it’s never too early to teach children the basics of emotional intelligence, and  once they begin to recognize their own feelings, empathize with others, and manage conflict effectively, they are well on their way to creating a healthy social life.

About Marion Witte

Marion Witte was born and raised on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. It was there that she acquired her Midwestern work ethic and her philosophy of helping others. Marion enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur, and upon selling her various business interests she began pursuing a life of philanthropy. She is passionate and outspoken about the need for radical changes in the way we view children and parenting. Her memoir “Little Madhouse on the Prairie” relays the story of her life, and it is the basis of her commitment to this work. She founded and manages the Angel Heart Foundation and its sister organizations “Next Generation Parenting” and “Brave New Leaders.”

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