January 29, 2022

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7 Habits Of Highly Emotionally Intelligent Kids

Many parents end up focusing more on their child’s academic achievements than they do on their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence — or “EQ,” as it’s sometimes called — is made up of five components: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills and intrinsic motivation, according to psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept in his 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”

Some research has shown that kids with high emotional intelligence tend to be more engaged in school, have better relationships and get better grades. As adults, people with higher emotional intelligence also tend to have higher-quality relationships, improved mental health and more positive feelings about their jobs.

“The great news is that emotional intelligence is not just a ‘gift,’” Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author of “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” told HuffPost. “It’s actually a skill, one that can be taught to children, starting when they’re as young as toddlers, though the seeds are planted even earlier in how we relate and respond to our infants.” 

Parents who model and encourage emotional intelligence at home can help their kids cultivate these skills, too.  

“A child needs an environment where they can feel comfortable expressing their inner worlds,” said child psychologist Dustin Plattner. “Parents get the wonderful job of being curious and ready to allow them space for expression. This sets the stage.”

We asked experts to share the habits of kids with high EQs. Here’s what they said:  

1. They use their vocabulary to identify their emotions.

Children with high emotional intelligence are adept at recognizing and verbally labeling their emotions beyond just “good” and “bad.” 

“For example, ‘I feel sad I cannot hang out with my friends,’ ‘I feel so excited I got a new bike,’ ‘I feel really mad at my teacher,’ or ‘I feel scared when dad travels overnight,’” Plattner said. 

2. And they recognize those emotions in others, too. 

Emotionally attuned kids are good at picking up on how others might be feeling. (Photo: asiseeit via Getty Images)
Emotionally attuned kids are good at picking up on how others might be feeling. (Photo: asiseeit via Getty Images)

Emotionally intelligent children can accurately sense how other people are feeling, often by picking up on nonverbal cues. 

“Before you can empathize, you have to be able to read someone else’s emotions,” Borba said. “For example: ‘She is smiling — I bet she’s happy,’ ‘Her body is slumped over — maybe she’s tired’ or ‘He’s crying: maybe I should help’ so you can tune into their feelings.” 

3. They see things from other people’s points of view.

Youngsters with higher levels of emotional intelligence are able to step into another person’s shoes, feel what they’re feeling and see the world from their perspective, Borba said.  

“Mastering perspective-taking is an important part of instilling a deep, caring connection with others,” she said. “It’s also a habit that children need for every part of life — from handling playground disputes today to mastering boardroom debates tomorrow.”

“When kids can grasp another’s perspective, they are more likely to be empathetic, handle conflicts peacefully, be less judgmental, value differences, speak up for those who are victimized and act in ways that are more helpful, comforting and supportive of others,” Borba added. 

4. They’re quick to help others. 

Kids with high emotional intelligence tend to be more considerate of others and look for ways they can help, whether that means lending a hand around the house, befriending the new kid in their class or spending time volunteering on the weekends. They focus more on the “we” than the “me.”

“Of course, there are the boys and girls this comes naturally to. But many American children — especially those of privilege — benefit from doing service projects whether it’s raising money for the less fortunate, baking a cake for an elderly neighbor or making cards for people in assisted living,” said educator Maureen Healy, founder of Growing Happy Kids and author of “The Emotionally Healthy Child.” “Habits of helping others also include doing chores around the house, and being part of the family team versus a solo player.”

5. They use tools to manage their emotions. 

Kids with high emotional intelligence tend to be better at regulating strong emotions in healthy ways. (Photo: Westend61 via Getty Images)
Kids with high emotional intelligence tend to be better at regulating strong emotions in healthy ways. (Photo: Westend61 via Getty Images)

Even adults have trouble self-soothing when stressful, upsetting or frustrating situations arise. Kids with high emotional intelligence are better able to regulate their feelings in more productive ways so they don’t spiral out of control. 

“Children begin highly reactive, but with guidance, instruction and practice, boys and girls begin to use tools of positive emotional health,” Healy said. “Some of those tools may be taking deep breaths, walking away when agitated or learning to use their words to say, ‘I need a break’ versus yelling when angry.” 

Children with higher EQs are also generally less reactive and impulsive than their peers. They’re able to pause before they act on their emotions. 

“They can recognize their feelings — happy, sad, mad, scared and shame — and understand what their need is in the moment,” Plattner said. “Action then comes from this emotional understanding rather than acting based on an in-the-moment impulse.” 

6. They’re comfortable saying “no” to their peers.  

Children with high emotional intelligence are more capable of setting and enforcing personal boundaries. If, for example, they don’t want to roughhouse with a friend, they can speak up and express that wish in a firm but kind way. 

“Typically, these youths can maintain reasonable limits, [show] proper respect of others, are assertive and listen to their emotions,” said psychotherapist Brandon Jones.

7. They practice gratitude.

Emotionally intelligent kiddos learn to be grateful for what they have. They don’t just say “thank you” reflexively because it’s polite — they get specific about what they’re thankful for and why. 

“Many families go around the table at dinner and saying one thing they’re appreciative from the day — from pizza at lunch to petting the neighbor’s pet pig,” Healy said.  

Our kids have had an exceptionally bad hand dealt to them the past few months. They’ve been separated from their entire social structure, their classrooms and all sense of normalcy. And parents have certainly struggled (to put it mildly) to keep up. So how can parents use this time at home ― whatever that looks like  ― to teach their children other important life skills and foster their emotional intelligence? Enter EQ Not IQ, a package from HuffPost Parenting. 

Related…

7 Signs You’ve Raised A Spoiled Child (And What To Do About It)

Resilience Is The Most Powerful Skill Kids Can Develop Right Now

Why ‘EQ’ Is The Most Important Thing You Can Teach Your Kids

Also on HuffPost

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“Last Stop on Market Street”

This Newbery Medal-winning book follows a boy and his grandmother as they witness beauty, kindness and joy on the bus. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Last-Stop-Market-Street-Matt/dp/0399257748" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This Newbery Medal-winning book follows a boy and his grandmother as they witness beauty, kindness and joy on the bus. (Available here)

“Those Shoes”

"Those Shoes" tells a story of generosity and selflessness in the midst of peer pressure. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Those-Shoes-Maribeth-Boelts/dp/0763642843" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“Those Shoes” tells a story of generosity and selflessness in the midst of peer pressure. (Available here)

“You, Me and Empathy”

This book aims to help kids develop skills like empathy and understanding through its compassionate main character.<i> (Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/You-Empathy-compassion-recognising-behaviours/dp/1925089126" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book aims to help kids develop skills like empathy and understanding through its compassionate main character. (Available here)

“Most People”

"Most People" reminds kids that, although there are many scary events and images in the world, there are also countless examples of goodness. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Most-People-Michael-Leannah/dp/0884485544" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“Most People” reminds kids that, although there are many scary events and images in the world, there are also countless examples of goodness. (Available here)

“The Invisible Boy”

It's common to feel left out, but this story highlights the power of friendship and inclusion. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Boy-Trudy-Ludwig/dp/1582464502" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
It’s common to feel left out, but this story highlights the power of friendship and inclusion. (Available here)

“Come With Me”

This book follows a little girl's quest to make the world a better place. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Come-Me-Holly-M-McGhee/dp/1524739057" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book follows a little girl’s quest to make the world a better place. (Available here)

“All Are Welcome”

This book celebrates different cultures around the world and educates kids about various traditions and customs. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0525579648/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0?tag=thehuffingtop-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book celebrates different cultures around the world and educates kids about various traditions and customs. (Available here)

“Little Blue Truck”

The first in a series by the same title, "Little Blue Truck" is all about unlikely friendships and the beauty of helping others. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Little-Blue-Truck-board-book/dp/0544568036" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
The first in a series by the same title, “Little Blue Truck” is all about unlikely friendships and the beauty of helping others. (Available here)

“Be Kind”

The protagonist of this story tries to follow her mother's advice to "be kind" and learns what compassion in action looks like. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Be-Kind-Pat-Zietlow-Miller/dp/1626723214" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
The protagonist of this story tries to follow her mother’s advice to “be kind” and learns what compassion in action looks like. (Available here)

“Save Me a Seat”

Joe and Ravi may come from different backgrounds, but they find they have more in common than they'd thought and forge a friendship based on understanding and acceptance. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Save-Me-Seat-Sarah-Weeks/dp/0545846609" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
Joe and Ravi may come from different backgrounds, but they find they have more in common than they’d thought and forge a friendship based on understanding and acceptance. (Available here)

“Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! Celebrating Diversity With Empathy”

Chocolate milk becomes a symbol to tell the story of a boy's friendship with a new classmate who doesn't speak English. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984855831/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3?tag=thehuffingtop-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“If You Plant a Seed”

This whimsical story uses the bond between a rabbit and a mouse to show the power of being thoughtful. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/You-Plant-Seed-Kadir-Nelson/dp/0062298895" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This whimsical story uses the bond between a rabbit and a mouse to show the power of being thoughtful. (Available here)

“One”

"One" uses different colors to share powerful messages about empathy, bullying, feelings and more. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/One-Kathryn-Otoshi/dp/0972394648" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“One” uses different colors to share powerful messages about empathy, bullying, feelings and more. (Available here)

“We’re All Wonders”

This book from the author of "Wonder" introduces younger readers to his famous character, Auggie, and his desire for acceptance. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Were-All-Wonders-R-Palacio/dp/1524766496" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book from the author of “Wonder” introduces younger readers to his famous character, Auggie, and his desire for acceptance. (Available here)

“I Am Enough”

"I Am Enough" offers lessons about accepting yourself -- as well as others. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Enough-Grace-Byers/dp/0062667122" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“Enemy Pie”

This book offers a sweet message about the right way to treat our "enemies" -- with kindness. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Enemy-Pie-Reading-Rainbow-book/dp/081182778X" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“Lovely”

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“A Sick Day for Amos McGee”

This award-winning book shows the value of selflessness and caring for one another. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sick-Day-Amos-McGee/dp/1596434023/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”

In this book, you can "fill a bucket" with acts of love and kindness and find real happiness in the process. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Have-Filled-Bucket-Today-Bucketfilling/dp/099609993X" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“Each Kindness”

"Each Kindness" presents anti-bullying messages and highlights the power of even the smallest actions. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Each-Kindness-Addams-Award-Awards/dp/0399246525" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
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“I Am Human”

"I Am Human" shares a message about understanding and accepting our imperfections and loving our flawed selves and peers. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Human-Book-Empathy/dp/1419731653" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“I Am Human” shares a message about understanding and accepting our imperfections and loving our flawed selves and peers. (Available here)

“Superheroes Club”

The heroes of this story strive to find different awesome ways to help others and show that kindness may be the best superpower. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Superheroes-Club-Madeleine-Sherak-PhD/dp/0997785802" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
The heroes of this story strive to find different awesome ways to help others and show that kindness may be the best superpower. (Available here)

“I Walk With Vanessa”

In this story, readers see that small acts of kindness can inspire whole communities and make a huge difference. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Vanessa-Story-Simple-Kindness/dp/1524769568" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
In this story, readers see that small acts of kindness can inspire whole communities and make a huge difference. (Available here)

“The Monster Who Lost His Mean”

As the title suggests, this book shows it's never too late to choose acceptance, inclusion and empathy. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Monster-Who-Lost-His-Mean/dp/0805093753" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
As the title suggests, this book shows it’s never too late to choose acceptance, inclusion and empathy. (Available here)

“The Rabbit Listened”

When things go wrong, the protagonist of this story learns that others can offer comfort -- even just by listening. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Rabbit-Listened-Cori-Doerrfeld/dp/073522935X" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
When things go wrong, the protagonist of this story learns that others can offer comfort — even just by listening. (Available here)

“Otis and the Scarecrow”

"Otis and the Scarecrow" includes messages about standing up for people and showing compassion. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Otis-Scarecrow-Loren-Long/dp/0399163964" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“Otis and the Scarecrow” includes messages about standing up for people and showing compassion. (Available here)

“Lost and Found Cat”

Based on a true story, "Lost and Found Cat" focuses on the beauty of strangers helping strangers. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Cat-Kunkushs-Incredible/dp/1524715476" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
Based on a true story, “Lost and Found Cat” focuses on the beauty of strangers helping strangers. (Available here)

“Hey, Little Ant”

"Hey, Little Ant" forces readers to consider the feelings of others. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Hey-Little-Ant-Phillip-Hoose/dp/1883672546" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“Hey, Little Ant” forces readers to consider the feelings of others. (Available here)

“How Kind!”

Giving and receiving are central to this tale about the appeal of kindness. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/How-Kind-Mary-Murphy/dp/0763623075" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
Giving and receiving are central to this tale about the appeal of kindness. (Available here)

“Pass It On”

This book is all about spreading positivity in your everyday life. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Pass-Sophy-Henn/dp/0399547754" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book is all about spreading positivity in your everyday life. (Available here)

“Listening With My Heart”

"Listening With My Heart" focuses on self-compassion and love, which help foster empathy and kindness. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Listening-My-Heart-kindness-self-compassion/dp/0998958034" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
“Listening With My Heart” focuses on self-compassion and love, which help foster empathy and kindness. (Available here)

“The Story of Ferdinand”

Now an animated film, "The Story of Ferdinand" is a sweet tale about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. (Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Story-Ferdinand-Munro-Leaf/dp/044845694X" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)
Now an animated film, “The Story of Ferdinand” is a sweet tale about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. (Available here)

“Empathy Is My Superpower!”

With her parents' guidance, the main character learns to recognize emotions in others and discovers the power of compassion. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TS9CWLJ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&amp;btkr=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
With her parents’ guidance, the main character learns to recognize emotions in others and discovers the power of compassion. (Available here)

“Just Feel”

This upcoming book from the daughter of Deepak Chopra helps kids learn to understand and navigate their own emotions -- and thus cultivate empathy. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Just-Feel-Stronger-Happier-Healthier/dp/0762494743" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This upcoming book from the daughter of Deepak Chopra helps kids learn to understand and navigate their own emotions — and thus cultivate empathy. (Available here)

“Kindness Is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler”

This book tells the story of a kindergarten class that discovers the value of being nice and doing good deeds. <i>(Available <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Kindness-Cooler-Ruler-Margery-Cuyler/dp/0689873441" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)</i>
This book tells the story of a kindergarten class that discovers the value of being nice and doing good deeds. (Available here)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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