« All News

Foster Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Image of Foster Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Ever asked your child to ‘sit still and be quiet’ only to find that it sets off a whirlwind of emotions? Restless little ones can quickly spiral into challenging behaviour, pushing parents and caregivers to the limit of their patience.

Restlessness and fidgeting are sometimes viewed as disobedience, and interpreted as a refusal by children to adhere to the norm. However, it’s essential to recognise that children are still navigating the complex landscape of their emotions and grappling with how to express themselves.

What strategies can parents and caregivers employ to foster the development of emotional intelligence, such as traits like self-control, understanding, and adaptability in their children?

According to UNICEF, emotional intelligence can be cultivated early and developed through life (UNICEF, 2020).

Here are some simple ways that parents can cultivate their child’s emotional intelligence:

  • Allow your children to participate in both household chores and specific decision-making scenarios.

  • Practice different life situations with your children and teach them how to react.

  • Allow your children to socialise as much as possible

  • Listen to their concerns and help them make the best decisions

  • Become an example of emotional intelligence for your children!

Another method of effectively teaching emotional intelligence in children is by modelling the RULER method (Tominey et al., 2017):

  • Recognize: How am I feeling?

Cues from our bodies (e.g., posture, energy level, breathing, and heart rate) can help us identify our levels of energy. Think about how our feelings may affect the interactions we have with others.  Talk about an incident where you or your child was agitated and how it affected the way you communicate with each other.  Was it positive, negative or tensed?

  • Understand: What happened that led me to feel this way?

    As emotions fluctuate throughout the day, consider the potential triggers behind these feelings. Recognising the factors (such as individuals, thoughts, and events) that provoke discomfort can aid in both managing and foreseeing them, enabling us to prepare an effective response. Think back on the above incident.  What factors could have led to those feelings of agitation?  Did something happen at work or school?

  • Label: What word best describes how I am feeling?

Cultivating a rich vocabulary allows us to pinpoint our emotions accurately, communicate effectively, and identify appropriate regulation strategies.  For example, you could use an age-appropriate emotions wheel and discuss with your child what each feeling means and the situation when the feeling would be appropriate.

  • Express: How can I express appropriately what I am feeling for this time and place?

In various situations and settings, certain modes of expression prove more effective than others. Clarifying our actions and their reasons to children offers them examples of diverse strategies for expressing their own emotions.  For example, when watching a show or movie together, use the scenarios to explain how people react and what could be a different way to express their emotions.

  • Regulate: What can I do to maintain my feelings (if I want to continue feeling this way) or shift my feelings (if I do not want to continue feeling this way)? For example, counting 1 to 10 and practicing deep breathing to get over negative feelings.

Having short-term strategies to manage emotions in the moment as well as long-term strategies to manage emotions over time is a critical part of effective regulation.

The RULER method can be integrated into a range of activities with the child. For example, parents can utilise the RULER acronym during read-aloud of storybooks with their child. Below is a sample of questions that can be included in conversations (Tominey et al., 2017).

Sample Read-Aloud Questions

Recognise: How is the character feeling? How do you know he/she is feeling that way? Can you show me a _________________ face?

Understand: What happened that made the character feel _________________ ? What happens that makes you feel _________________ ?

Label: Where would you put this character on the mood meter? What is the name of this feeling?

Express: How did the character act when he/she was feeling _________________ ? What else can you do when you are feeling _________________ ?

Regulate: What did the character do when he/she felt _________________ ? What could you do to help a friend who is feeling _________________ ? When you feel _________________ , what do you do?

Emotions are part of everyday life, and recognising and regulating emotions is a life skill that everyone should acquire.  Most of us learn it by watching our parents.  Parents who are able to recognise and manage their feelings and behave appropriately; and parents who lose their self-control and lash out at others, are both modelling for their children what emotional regulation is and is not.  The ability to control our emotions is part of emotional intelligence and learning it early enables our children to develop skills that will benefit their mental well-being and interpersonal relationships.

Written by: Joycelyn Ong, Intern, Fei Yue Community Services



How to Cultivate the Emotional Intelligence in Children. (2020). UNICEF Romania. Retrieved December 20, 2023, from https://www.unicef.org/romania/stories/how-cultivate-emotional-intelligence-children

Tominey, S., O’Bryon, E., Rivers, S., & Shapses, S. (2017). Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Early Childhood. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2017/teaching-emotional-intelligence