Kindergarten teachers report that over 30% of kids entering their first year of school are emotionally unprepared and lack the necessary emotional skills to successfully navigate school life. Yet not all parents are aware that the cultivation of these skills begins during the earliest stage of life: infancy.
Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as EQ, refers to an individual’s ability to identify, understand, control, and assess the emotions of themselves and of others. In today’s day in age, this is regarded as an important part of effectively interacting with others, being a contributing member of society, and of becoming a well-rounded leader.
Because of the importance emotional intelligence has on our lives, we’re exploring how emotional intelligence is healthily built, encouraged, and facilitated during infancy.
Building an Infant’s Sense of Self
When a baby is born, they have virtually no concept of “self”. For instance, when an infant is hungry, their source of food–whether it’s a bottle or their mother’s nipple–is perceived, to that baby, as part of themselves, and they are unable to separate where their own body starts and ends.
However, their level of self-awareness begins to develop over their first year of life, and the level of sensitivity and care that is provided to your child will help them to begin developing a positive sense of emotional intelligence. With the right level of nurturing and care, an infant will soon realize that their own body is where the feeling of discomfort (hunger) originates while the relief for that feeling comes from an outside source (a bottle or breast).
Being sensitive to the needs of your baby and responding to their signals helps them to develop their sense of self and allows them to adequately identify not only what their own emotions are, but how to regulate them. Both of these qualities are important to their emerging sense of emotional intelligence.
Calming your crying baby, feeding them when they’re hungry, and encouraging them to try new things instills their ability to calm themselves, to regulate their own emotions, and to develop a sense of confidence in themselves from a young age. This is the start of the building one’s EI as they transition from infancy to the later stages of life.
How to Enhance an Infant’s Emotional Skills
The ways that we interact with infants contributes to what will evolve into their emotional intelligence, surrounding the development of their empathy, happiness, hopefulness, and sadness. This, later in life, is said to predict approximately 80% of a person’s career success, according to the University of Georgia’s department of Child and Family Development.
As parents, there are several behaviors that can easily contribute to building a healthy level of emotional intelligence in your child from infancy. Actions as simple as often smiling at your baby can improve their emotional intelligence. Also ensuring that your baby has both a secure and consistent environment, showing empathy when your little one is upset, expressing positive feedback for good behavior, and verbalizing the emotions that your baby is feeling aid in their development. Finally, bonding with your family through conversations using baby sounds helps to develop their emotional intelligence.
Although these actions aren’t difficult to put into practice with your bundle of joy, they make a big difference when it comes to cultivating their healthy level of emotional intelligence as they grow up.
Because one’s emotional intelligence is something that will enhance their life far past the stage of infancy, it’s important to begin enabling their ability to build their EQ from an early age. Give them the tools they need to enjoy healthy and loving relationships as they grow up, preparing them for their first day of kindergarten and beyond.