What Are the 5 Components of Emotional Intelligence?
You’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence and its importance, but did you know about the 5 components of emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence – also known as emotional quotient or EQ – is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and understand the emotions of others. Being able to regulate emotions is essential to a child’s day-to-day life. It affects their understanding of situations, how to respond, their behaviour and their enjoyment of life.
Study after study has proved EQ’s importance – emotional intelligence predicts future success in relationships, health, and quality of life. Children with high EQ get better exam results, stay in education longer, make healthier lifestyle choices, are more cooperative, and make better ‘leaders’ within the classroom.
It’s therefore incredibly important that we nurture and develop our children’s emotional intelligence.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman identified the key personal and interpersonal skills involved in emotional intelligence and why EQ is just as important as IQ when it comes to success. Read on to find out more about the 5 dimensions of emotional intelligence:
- Internal motivation
- Social skills
The first of the 5 components of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness is about recognising and understanding your emotions – what you are feeling and why – as well as appreciating how they affect those around you.
Being self-aware is hard and not just for kids. No one is perfect and we all have a lack of self-awareness at times. Examples of lacking self-awareness include:
- Playing the victim, blaming others, or making excuses when something goes wrong.
- Refusing to admit you are wrong and trying to prove you are right even in the face of contrary information.
- Wanting to be in control all the time.
- Not paying attention or listening well.
We often see these behaviours in our children (as well as adults), but it is important for us to help our kids build self-awareness as they grow up.
Examples of self-awareness include children:
- Recognising their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Understanding and talking about their feelings.
- Recognising other people’s needs and feelings.
- Seeing how their behaviour affects others.
- Developing a growth mindset and learning from mistakes.
So how can you improve self-awareness in children?
Show your children how to handle situations, talk about how you overcome big feelings like anger or frustration, give yourself ‘calm-down’ time and explain what you are doing.
Get your child to explain why they feel a certain way and (where relevant) what action should be taken.
Prediction and estimation skills
Get your child to estimate how easy or difficult a task is, how long a task will take, and how someone might react to a certain situation.
Get them to reflect
Reflection time could be related to their day, interests or experiences. Whilst it can be awkward (especially with teenagers), why not try the following discussion topics:
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you turn a weakness into a strength? If so, how?
- What are your top 5 positive qualities?
- When was a time you succeeded at something? How?
- What do you love to do? What activities make you feel the best?
- What things would a good friend say about you?
- What makes you unique?
- What 3 words best describe you?
- How do you feel today? Why?
Self-regulation is about managing emotions, particularly negative ones, effectively. This involves being able to control your impulses and moods and to think before acting. This does not mean hiding your emotions – it simply means waiting for the right time and place to express them. Self-regulation is all about expressing your emotions appropriately and staying in control.
Self-regulation is hard enough for some adults, let alone kids. So how do we teach our kids to self-regulate? What self-regulation strategies for kids can we use?
Name the feeling
Help your child identify their feelings and why they may be feeling them.
Separate the “I am” from “I feel”
Emotions are temporary; they do not define us. Practice talking about emotions using “I feel” instead of “I am” and explore why you or they may feel a certain way.
Make expectations clear
It is always ok to feel your emotions, but there are limits to how they can be expressed safely and respectfully. Explain those guardrails.
Have a physical space dedicated to emotional regulation
We all need a calm-down corner. Find one in the house.
Learn to count to 10 (or more) or take deep breaths
Relaxation techniques help children calm down and regain control. Teach them and help them find something that works for them.
Encourage physical activity
Physical exertion is a great way to help children release excess energy and frustration as well as help them focus and concentrate.
Use positive reinforcement
Praise your child’s efforts when they display self-regulation. This will help to encourage them to continue.
Make sure they get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for children’s physical and mental health.
The third of the 5 components of emotional intelligence is Internal (or intrinsic) motivation. This is an inner drive that propels a person to improve and pursue goals for personal reasons, rather than for some kind of reward. In other words, a person is motivated by fun, challenge or satisfaction of an activity, not by an outside outcome, pressure or reward.
Examples of internal motivation include:
- Studying maths because you enjoy solving problems, not because you want to please your parents or get a particular grade in an exam.
- Practising tennis because it is fun, not because you want to win an award.
- Playing a musical instrument because you enjoy making music, not to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation comes from individuals doing something out of their own ‘free choice’ – not because they are required to do so or because they would be rewarded for doing it.
As parents, we all try to incentivise our kids to do something, whether it is ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ – pocket money for doing chores, cash incentives for scoring a hat-trick or finishing in the top 3 in a race, extra screen time for doing homework. We hope that the child will associate a positive outcome, or a not negative outcome, with the desired behaviour and, as a result, be more likely to repeat it in the future.
However, research has shown that these extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation. They may well demotivate a child from doing something for themselves.
Factors affecting motivation in our children might include:
- Letting them choose tasks that interest them and doing them for pure enjoyment.
- Looking for aspects of an activity that interest them – i.e. why do they want to participate?
- Challenging them and stretching their limits (but not too far). Achieving success will give the child a tremendous sense of competence. Remember do not make the task so unattainable that failing to achieve the desired outcome demotivates them.
Now this isn’t to say we should not incentivise our children to do things, especially things they don’t want to do but may be beneficial in the long term (chores, schoolwork, exams). But we need to find the balance and make sure that they learn to be motivated to do things themselves.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see a situation from their perspective. It is not just an awareness of others’ feelings – it is about acknowledging and responding to that other person’s feelings, even if you do not agree with them. In particular, empathy in communication is key.
The development of empathy tends to naturally happen as children get older due to a combination of biology and learned experience. However, we can always help the process along. Strategies for teaching empathy to kids include:
- Modelling it – this will allow your child to understand what empathy looks like, sounds like and feels like.
- Discussing emotions – always explore why they may feel the way they do.
- Help out at home or in the community – helping others develops kindness and caring. It may also allow your child to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, ages and circumstances.
- Praise empathetic behaviour – focusing on and encouraging empathetic behaviour encourages more of it in the future.
Social skills make up the last of the 5 components of emotional intelligence. Social skills are the ability to manage relationships, interact with people, and maintain friendships. We’ve all met people who we consider to lack social awareness or social etiquette. The key is making sure our children develop the social skills they need to exhibit as they grow up.
There are 7 important social skills children must have:
- Cooperating – working together to achieve a common goal.
- Listening – this is not about keeping quiet; it is about really absorbing what someone says.
- Following directions/instructions – for younger children, keep it simple, and always avoid phrasing directions like questions.
- Respecting personal space
- Making (and maintaining) eye contact
- Using manners – generally being polite and respectful (this may require you to be a good role model)
Look for teachable moments when you can help your kids develop social awareness skills. Try even harder with introverted children who may really struggle with making (and maintaining) eye contact, as well as other social norms (like asking teachers and coaches for help, asking strangers for directions etc.)
I hope this article on the 5 components of emotional intelligence has been helpful! If you would like to read more on similar subjects, take a look at How To Encourage Kindness for Kids, How NLP For Kids Can Help With Anxiety and How Best To Parent Introvert Kids.