Building the Childhood Emotional Intelligence Muscle

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Emotional Intelligence is a characteristic that is increasingly needed in society and our world today, but few people know what this entails and how to develop this trait. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to pick up on your own emotions and the emotions of others and adjust your response or behavior according to the emotions that you are able to perceive around you. According to the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, emotions lead to decision making and impact our creativity, relationships and health. It is therefore important to manage our emotions and develop a high emotional quotient in the long term. 

Learning and forming habits start from a young age, which is why it is necessary for children to know about and build their emotional intelligence muscle. EI is developed together with social and emotional learning (SEL), which refers to how children acquire EI, respond to others and build their problem solving skills. The Yale Centre teaches school children how to develop Emotional Intelligence and uses the RULER approach. This stands for recognising, understanding, labelling, expressing and regulating, which the centre identifies as the five key skills that individuals must finetune in order to develop their social and emotional radar. This approach must form a part of our lifestyle for the long term and is not something that can be practiced selectively, according to Dr Marc Brackett, founding director of the Center. Emotional changes impact a child’s environment at home and at school, and are essential for the formation of a child’s personality and how they respond to situations. Additionally, the Yale Centre has also found that implementing this approach within schools informs the leadership skills of primary and secondary children.  A study conducted by the Centre reveals that there was a 10% increase in academic performance and a 12% improvement in the classroom environment, after spending a year building students EI using the RULER approach. Learning about your emotions and how they impact you also results in fewer learning problems, less chance of stress, burnout and mental health struggles, which are issues that affect people from a younger age in each generation. Additionally, emotional intelligence leads to greater social skills and better performance at school and later in the workplace.

Parents and teachers play a big role in how children develop and form their personalities.This is why adults must not only teach their children about EI but also practice it themselves, so that children can learn how to process emotions by example. Apart from helping children cope better in life, Emotional Intelligence and the skills related to it are increasingly sought after and rare traits being demanded by employers. Being equipped with a form of intelligence that goes beyond being academic is now critical for success and happiness in children.

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