15 Parenting Habits That Encourage Emotional Intelligence In Children

15 Parenting Habits That Encourage Emotional Intelligence In Children

Want to raise emotionally savvy kids who thrive in all areas of life? It’s more than just teaching them about feelings – it’s about your everyday interactions. Here are some simple yet impactful parenting habits that equip children with the tools for emotional understanding, strong self-awareness, and healthy relationships.

1. Validate their feelings.

When your kid is upset, resist the urge to brush it off or tell them to suck it up. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Something like, “I can see that you’re really frustrated right now, and that’s totally understandable.” This simple act of validation shows your child that their emotions are valid and important, and helps them develop a healthy sense of self-awareness.

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2. Model healthy coping mechanisms.

As research by Duke University shows, kids learn by example, so if you want them to develop healthy coping skills, you need to model them yourself. That means no more stress-eating an entire pint of ice cream after a bad day at work. Instead, try taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, or talking it out with a friend. Show your kids that there are healthy ways to deal with difficult emotions, and they’ll be more likely to follow suit.

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3. Encourage them to express themselves.

Bottling up emotions is a surefire way to stunt emotional growth. Encourage your kids to express themselves in whatever way feels natural to them, whether it’s through art, music, writing, or just good old-fashioned talking. Create a safe space for them to share their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. The more they practice expressing themselves, the more emotionally articulate they’ll become.

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4. Teach them to problem-solve.

When your kid comes to you with a problem, resist the urge to jump in and fix it for them. Instead, help them brainstorm potential solutions and weigh the pros and cons of each one. This teaches them to think critically and develop their own problem-solving skills, which are essential for navigating life’s challenges. Plus, it shows them that you trust their judgment and believe in their ability to handle their own issues.

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5. Practice active listening.

Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and give your kid your undivided attention when they’re talking to you. Make eye contact, nod your head, and ask follow-up questions to show that you’re really listening. This simple act of presence shows your child that their thoughts and feelings are important to you, and helps them feel heard and understood.

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6. Teach them empathy.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective. To teach your kids empathy, encourage them to think about how others might be feeling in different situations. Ask questions like, “How do you think that made your friend feel?” or “What could you do to help someone who’s having a tough day?” The more they practice empathy, the more emotionally intelligent they’ll become.

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7.  Encourage them to take risks.

Emotional intelligence isn’t just about being in touch with your own feelings – it’s also about having the courage to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. Encourage your kids to take healthy risks, whether it’s trying out for a new sport or striking up a conversation with a new classmate. Celebrate their bravery and remind them that failure is just an opportunity to learn and grow.

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8. Help them develop a growth mindset.

Kids with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. They see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as threats to their self-esteem. To help your kids develop a growth mindset, praise their effort and progress rather than their innate abilities. Say things like, “I’m so proud of how hard you worked on that project” rather than “You’re so smart!”

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9. Teach them to set boundaries.

Emotional intelligence isn’t just about being kind and empathetic – it’s also about knowing when to say no and stand up for yourself. Teach your kids to set healthy boundaries with others, whether it’s saying no to a playdate when they’re feeling overwhelmed or standing up to a bully at school. Show them that it’s okay to put their own needs first sometimes, and that setting boundaries is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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10. Encourage them to be grateful.

Gratitude is a powerful tool for boosting emotional well-being. Encourage your kids to practice gratitude by taking a few minutes each day to reflect on the things they’re thankful for. It could be something as simple as a delicious breakfast or a fun playdate with a friend. The more they focus on the positive things in their life, the more resilient and emotionally balanced they’ll become.

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11. Offer forgiveness.

Holding grudges is emotionally draining and can lead to bitterness and resentment over time. Teach your kids the power of forgiveness by modeling it yourself. When someone wrongs you, show your kids how to let go of anger and find a way to move forward. Explain that forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior – it just means choosing not to let it control your emotions.

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12. Teach them to manage their time.

Time management is a key component of emotional intelligence. When kids feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it can be hard for them to regulate their emotions. Teach your kids to prioritize their tasks, break big projects into smaller steps, and create a schedule that allows for both work and play. The more in control they feel of their time, the more emotionally balanced they’ll be.

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13. Encourage them to be kind to themselves.

Self-compassion is a crucial component of emotional intelligence, Harvard Business Review explains. Teach your kids to be kind to themselves when they make mistakes or fall short of their goals. Encourage them to speak to themselves with the same kindness and understanding they would offer a good friend. When they learn to treat themselves with compassion, they’ll be better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs.

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14. Help them develop a sense of purpose.

Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is essential for emotional well-being. Help your kids discover their passions and interests, and encourage them to pursue activities that light them up inside. Whether it’s volunteering for a cause they care about or diving deep into a hobby they love, having a sense of purpose will give them a strong foundation for emotional resilience.

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15. Make time for connection.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to encourage emotional intelligence in your kids is to make time for connection. Put down your devices, set aside your to-do list, and spend quality time together. Whether it’s a family game night, a heart-to-heart conversation, or just a silly dance party in the living room, these moments of connection will help your kids feel loved, supported, and emotionally secure.

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Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.