What Are 3 Ways I Can Strengthen My Child's Emotional Intelligence?

Research suggests that people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or even relevant experience in the world of work. Emotional intelligence is also the key to positive and satisfying relationships. And kids with higher emotional intelligence tend to cooperate more. So how can we help our children get stronger in the area of emotions?

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Hidden Food Rules

Sharing food is a social activity that brings people together, but the way we eat can be an obstacle to making connections. Last night in group we discussed hidden food rules (also known as manners). We had a great discussion about how food is an important part of any social gathering (think meeting for coffee and all of the meals associated with holidays), but once we get together over a meal, the eating should be less distracting than the conversation. Here are a few of the hidden food rules we identified:


1. Chew with mouth closed; talk with an empty mouth (this involves carefully following the rhythm of the conversation to know when to take a bite of food and when to wait.)


2. Ask for things you need to be passed. This becomes a chance to make eye contact and contact with people in the conversation who you might not have connected with.


3. Use utensils as expected. Unexpected behaviors like eating with hands becomes distracting to conversation and be isolating.


4. Prioritize conversation. Remember why you are there, and prioritize talking over eating.

The Power of a Smile

One of the items on our Better Communication Challenge is to smile at someone. Here is a moving example of the power simple acts of kindness can have. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td-II-4uStY

Sympathy for the Kragle

This week I took my son to see The Lego Movie. We loved it and as I watched it I couldn't help but see some archetypes that will be familiar to many of the kids who participate in Kids Cooperate social groups.  [Possible Spoiler Alert] The pantheon of bad guys is headed by President Business who, frustrated with the disorder of lego land devises a plan to freeze them all in place using his army of micromanaging machines led by Bad Cop, one of the most three dimensional and interesting characters who struggles with wild mood swings. Starting to sound familiar?

The hero of the story is Emmett, a lego guy who struggles to fit in and be accepted despite his best effort to listen to what his peers are listening to, watch what they are watching, and talk about what they are talking about. His attempts to fit in are perceived by his peers as something less than authentic, and he is ostracized in a way that is all the more painful because he is "doing everything right". Starting to sound familiar?  

In the end it is, ironically, Emmett's willingness to accept the ways he is different which reveals the way he is the same as everyone else in that each character harbors unique quirks of character that compliment each other. This should sound familiar if you have ever heard me talk about the Kids Cooperate philosophy of practice.  

Our curriculum is built around the dialectic idea that a person has to unconditionally accept themselves as they are before change is possible.  That is the principle behind the way curriculum is developed to support a space where the group members can share and find community in their idiosyncrasies, while gaining greater awareness of their social emotional strengths and challenges and learning tools to reach across what separates them from their peers in order to make connections. 

Practicing Empathy

Empathy is about making an emotional connection. One of the greatest roadblocks to gaining a greater sense of empathy is knowing the right questions to ask. Until kids learn how to ask questions that elicit an emotional response, other people's thoughts and feelings can seem locked in a black box. This is especially true for children and adolescents who are on the autism spectrum. 

Beyond being the kind of quality we want to posses because it makes us good, empathy has immense pragmatic value as well. It allows a person to understand and anticipate the needs of friends, family and co-workers. It makes it possible to process and ameliorate the anger and aggression of antagonists. It makes it easier to negotiate and persuade.

In social group we have been working on understanding and reading body language, asking open ended questions, and demonstrating empathetic listening. This week we will bring it all together in a talkshow/game format. It is going to be fun. Instead of our regular connected conversation time where the kids share news from the week, each child will have an interviewer who will work to draw out and understand the feelings behind the stories. An important skill to practice will be recognizing the signs of the discomfort that comes from pushing the boundary of how much a person is comfortable sharing and then honoring that boundary.

Guide to Persuading Parents

Here are a few tips for effectively persuading parents generated by the middle school group.

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Dude is a fun way to teach eye contact, which is important because it is a social marker for a wide variety of expressions including trust, respect, interest, and understanding. Eye contact also creates an ineffable human connection which is difficult to quantify or describe, and lack of eye contact makes it difficult to trust someone. 

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To Be; Or Not To Be (Informed)

There are pragmatic benefits to discussing the news in social group. Top news stories serve as a kind of socially appropriate filler conversation similar to the weather, but with greater gravitas. Another important pragmatic benefit is that by hearing the stories in a calm and supported context, they are less likely to cause distress when they are heard or seen on television or radio. 

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What's in a face

The trick when teaching the reading of facial expression is that while each person expresses happiness, gratitude, anger, and frustration uniquely, there is an almost ineffable element of commonality just below the surface which can be difficult to identify.  

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Center, Enter, Join

Joinin a group of people already engaged in an activity is one of the most difficult things to do. I'm sure that you've been in a social situation and recognize the feeling of looking around the room and seeing everyone already gathered into groups, discussing work, sports, and politics. 

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Autism Parenting Magazine Feature

Kids Cooperate is Featured in this month's edition of Autism Parenting Magazine! Here is a link to the article:https://s3.amazonaws.com/AutismParentingPdfs/AP_6_3_web.pdf