Emotional Intelligence for Kids

This post was generously contributed by Kristie Santana, co-founder of Life Coach Path.  

Unlike a high IQ, a high EQ (emotional intelligence) for kids will fling doors open, left and right. For adults, the ability to self-regulate is lacking among adults. Don’t believe me? Check out the comments of any YouTube video.

In fact, grown adults often resort to bullying and temper tantrums, especially while online.  I hope for better emotional intelligence for the upcoming generations. How can parents help nurture kids’ emotional intelligence and prevent this behavior? Let’s go through five ways to encourage your children to self-regulate.


How Parents Teach Emotional Intelligence

  1. Help Them Build a Emotional Vocabulary
  2. Reframe “Negative” Emotions into an Opportunity For Connection
  3. Note the Difference Between Emotion & Behavior
  4. Create and Model Healthy Coping Mechanisms
  5. Accept Mistakes and Evolve

1. Help Them Build an Emotional Vocabulary (Positive & Negative)

Young children throw tantrums because they haven’t yet learned to self-regulate. Kids don’t have the language to help them articulate what they’re feeling in the moment. It’s equally important for them to be able to identify and articulate all of those feel-good emotions too; excitement, happiness, curiosity, wonderment, etc.

There are two benefits to teaching children how to identify emotions.

  •  When everything starts to go sideways, you won’t be in the dark about what it is they’re trying to work through.
  • The more robust their emotional vocabulary becomes, the more empowered they feel.

2. Reframe “Negative” Emotions into an Opportunity For Connection

Helping our children self-regulate often means we go through a great deal of “unlearning” when it comes to the way we’ve handled our own emotions as parents. We’ve learned to either bury our negative emotions, sweep them under the rug, or act out in ways that harm others.

When our children have strong emotions, it’s incumbent upon us to make space for those emotions, actively listen to what our children are saying, and validate those emotions. Negative or strong emotions should never be dismissed, nor should our children feel they are putting us out by having big feelings.

3. Note the Difference Between Emotion & Behavior

We can make space for the big feelings, but when those emotions are acted out, that’s where we have to step in as coaches. Learning how to manage conflict is an invaluable skill. In fact, children who are able to work through their big feelings and solve problems are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and various other mental health issues. It’s okay to feel angry, or frustrated, but we need to teach them that there is power in knowing how to channel those emotions into solutions. This is not an overnight process and will require a truckload of patience, but the reward is worth every tantrum.

4. Create and Model Healthy Coping Mechanisms

How do you cope and manage your own emotions, especially the negative ones? What do you do when you’re stressed? How do you deal with anger?

Our children look to us as a template for how they’re going to handle their own emotions. So there’s no time like the present to start creating some healthy coping skills.

Exercise is a great start! Movement ramps up those endorphins, and doing something active with your child is a wonderful bonding opportunity for both of you to let off some steam. Getting out in nature is another excellent way of alleviating stress and redirecting negative emotions. And when space is needed, find a place your child can go to feel safe, take a few deep breaths, and process their emotions before they’re ready to communicate what they’re feeling with you.

5. Accept Mistakes and Evolve

The road to raising an emotionally intelligent child is full of potholes. It’s not going to be perfect, and the sooner you accept that, the easier the process will be.

Your child is going to have reactive behavior. You are going to lose your patience. This is OKAY. Who said parenting had to be perfect? Give yourself space and grace to make mistakes, and give your child the same leniency. As long as you move through those mistakes, learn from them, and try something different the next round, you’re doing great.

We've got lots of tips and activities for teaching emotional intelligence in our full lesson plan.


Check Out Our Lesson

Empowering Education offers full lesson plans for teachers on teaching kids how to better understand and express their emotions.



Encouraging our children to nurture their emotional intelligence requires a bit of detective work on our part. We have to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts wide open if we want to help them step out into the world as productive, sentient, and intuitive little beings.

It’s important for us to be meticulously observant to help our children figure out what it is they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it. We have to peel back those layers and show our children compassion when they’re vulnerable enough to let us see what’s going on underneath.