3 Steps to Help Children Develop Emotional Intelligence

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

“Words and signs,” is a common phrase in our house when we have young children. We want our children to effectively communicate with us and with each other. A toddler who cannot communicate is a frustrated toddler, and frustration, which is difficult enough in itself, can lead to undesirable behaviors. Using words and signs is only part of the process, though. Just as young children are still learning those words and signs, they are also still learning about many other things such as feelings, ways to express those feelings, others’ feelings, and ways to interact with others. There are a few things we can do to help our children during this learning process.

Photo by Julien Harneis (Flickr)

Photo by Julien Harneis (Flickr)

  1. Talk to your children. Even young toddlers and babies are absorbing what you say. Talk about feelings: yours, theirs, and others’. Help them learn to recognize feelings and communicate those, whether through words, signs, or actions. Recognizing feelings is a key part of learning to be emotionally sensitive and generous with others. It helps individuals be more understanding of other viewpoints, which helps them to work with one another. Ask questions about your child’s feelings, needs, wants, and choices. This is a great time to practice – and model – active listening. There is no need to judge what your child says. Stay connected and ask questions and rephrase what they say to help them learn to effectively communicate.
  2. Model non-violent communication. While talking our children through situations and feelings is necessary, often times our actions speak louder than words. In order for our children to learn to effectively communicate in non-violent ways, we need to make certain we are first modeling those behaviors. Use active listening to better understand your children’s points of view and to help them sort through the feelings and thoughts regarding a situation. Utilize “I” Statements in order to express your needs rather than judging or attacking. Work with your children to come up with win/win solutions which work for everyone.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. You may never be perfect at it, but practicing non-violent communication every day helps you and your children to be better at interacting with others in a peaceful manner. Talk about your children’s feelings and your feelings. Describe situations rather than making judgmental comments with assumptions of intentions. Talk through situations. Take advantage of the little moments to model pro-social behaviors. Brainstorm solutions together in order to come up with something which works for everyone.

As you openly practice communication around and with your children, you will find that not only are your children interacting more peacefully, but that you are, too.


Interested in reading more about the concepts in the third chapter of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings? Check out these posts by Natural Parent Network volunteers:

Teaching Kids to “Use Your Words!” When Dionna at Code Name: Mama taught preschool at a special needs facility, one of the catch phrases that every teacher used multiple times a day was “Use your words!” As a parent, she’s often said it to her own kids. But telling a child to use her words does not make a difference unless you first teach her what to say.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings – Chapters 3 and 4 Emily chats a little bit about sibling spacing and dealing with tattling from chapters 3 and 4.

The 3-C’s of Helping Children Work Things Out At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy shares three simple C’s to remember in order to help yourself help your children work things out.

The Phrase That Changed Our Game Kat at MomeeZen has learned a game changer phrase from Dr. Laura. Read on to see how it has made the world of difference when dealing with escalating kiddo situations.

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

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