As your children grow into toddlerhood, they will begin to experience more complex emotions. These intense emotions will be more difficult for your toddler to understand, which can lead to outbursts and tantrums. Teaching emotions to toddlers helps them regulate their own feelings over time.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” These five steps will help you teach emotional intelligence to your toddler.
1. Model Healthy Emotional Regulation
To help your toddler learn how to regulate their emotions, make sure you are consistently modeling healthy ways to do so. As you regulate your emotions, label them and explain how you will cope with them. Count to five, take a deep breath or walk away from the situation for a minute. Don’t curse or yell; your children will mimic your words and actions.
As you read and watch TV together, label the characters’ feelings. Encourage your toddler to think about why characters are feeling this way.
2. Prioritize a Deep Connection
Your toddler will be more proficient at emotional regulation when they feel closer to you. Make sure your child feels loved and nurtured. When possible, meet your toddler’s needs. Even when this is not possible, comfort and empathize with your child.
3. Accept Your Toddler’s Emotions
As a toddler, your child will feel big emotions, such as frustration, guilt and shame, for the first time. It’s important to accept these emotions to teach your toddler that even negative emotions are normal and temporary.
Your child’s personality and temperament will affect how strongly they feel emotions and how quickly they recover from them. At this stage, you should plan for tantrums regardless of how well your child goes with the flow. Feelings may be inconvenient, but that doesn’t make them go away.
4. Resist the Urge to Punish
Guide behavior, rather than punish it. Instead of telling your toddler what they can’t do, encourage them to express their emotions in a healthy way. Hitting is not an effective way to express anger. Screaming into a pillow and painting an angry picture are.
Continue positively redirecting emotions until your child is able to do so on their own.
5. Provide a Safe Space to Feel Emotions
Your home should be a place where toddlers feel safe learning how to identify and regulate their emotions. While at home:
- At the dinner table, ask everyone how they felt throughout the day.
- Encourage emotions during pretend play.
- Make a cozy corner where your toddler can go when they need to calm down.
- Empathize with your toddler’s emotions, rather than talking them out of the emotions.
- Give your toddler choices to help them feel empowered rather than frustrated.