Building Emotional Intelligence
I had just finished reading Alice Shertle’s book, Little Blue Truck to a group of preschoolers. This picture book describes the caring gesture of a friendly little truck who helps a rude dump truck after it gets stuck in a huge mud puddle beside a farm. The friendly truck drives into the mud puddle to try to help only to get stuck there himself. One by one the farm animals rush to help Little Blue get out of the mud. After much effort, the animals manage to push Little Blue out of the mud, who in turn pushes the Dump Truck out of the mud.
I reread the Dump Truck’s words to Little Blue, “Now I know a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends.” Venturing further, I asked the group, “Why should we help our friends?”
My favorite response came from four-year-old Robert who broke out into song, “Ya gotta share, ya gotta care, it’s the right thing to do!” Through a little research, I learned that he had first heard the song while watching a My Little Pony episode and has not stopped singing it since.
Caring can be easy for a child to sing about, but difficult for most to work it out.
How can we teach our children care for others?
- Build Emotional Intelligence. Teach children how to recognize their own feelings. Before a child can learn to care about how another person is feeling (empathy), he must be made aware of his own emotions. Ask questions that will help him think about the way he is feeling, “I see you are crying. Are you feeling sad?”
- Encourage Other-centeredness. Help your child focus on the feelings of others by asking her, “How do you think that child is feeling?” “What do you think you can do to help?” Try reading children’s books together and talk about how the characters in the story feel.
- Praise Caring Behaviors. As you observe children demonstrating caring and compassionate behaviors, identify those behaviors and celebrate them together. “It was very kind of you to let your little sister have the toy, she was feeling sad.” Or, “Thank you for opening the door for me, that made me feel special.”
- Teach Social Niceties. Teach children to greet others, to use manners, and to be considerate, “Mommy’s friend is going to visit this afternoon. It would make her feel so happy if you say ‘hello’ and smile or give her a hug. What else do you think we can do to help her feel happy?”
- Caring in Action.Think of activities you and your child can participate in to show care and kindness to others like donating items like food, diapers, and clothing; bringing flowers to a neighbor, sending cards to loved ones, and helping other family members at home. After these activities, talk to your children about what they did and how they felt when they showed others care and compassion.
Above all, be patient, young children, especially, learn about caring through repetition. Practice caring daily and identify the actions when you notice them. Little by little, he will learn what it means to care for others.
Parlakian, R. & Lerner, C. (2009, July). “Tips on Helping Your Child Develop Empathy.” Retrieved on April 27, 2016 from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/social-emotional-development/take-a-walk-in-my-shoes.html
Price-Mitchell, M. (2015, September 14). “Acts of Kindness: Teaching Children to Care.” Retrieved on April 27, 2016 from http://www.rootsofaction.com/art-kindness-teaching-children-care/
VanClay, M. “The Caring Child: How to teach Empathy.” Retrieved on April 27, 2016 from