Recently, it was impressive to watch my young niece and nephew greet a friend of the family who they had not met before. Each child smiled, looked directly at the young woman, addressed her by name, and extended their hand to shake hers politely. My niece Hannah then asked if she could take the woman’s coat, while my nephew Graham offered her a seat and a bottle of water. Both children were so thoughtful and gracious, so incredibly likable.
Being respectful, thoughtful and compassionate are social skills that contribute to our overall emotional intelligence (EQ). Developing a high EQ goes a long way towards helping children build healthy relationships and a successful, happy life. According to a recent TalentSmart research study, people skilled in emotional intelligence are not only immensely likable, they outperform those who are not by a wide margin. In fact, the report cites that people with high EQs make approximately $29,000 more annually than people with low EQs.
So, how do you teach likability and emotional intelligence?
At Apple Montessori Schools, a primary part of our educational program focuses on helping your child learn and develop grace and courtesy skills. We understand that children’s personalities and temperaments evolve naturally at their own pace when they are supported in a nurturing, mutually-respectful environment that encourages politeness and thoughtful behavior.
Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori approach to child education and development believed that each child develops according to their own internal timetable. Dr. Montessori found that children ages 3 to 6 like to spend time independently, while those over 6 become more social and enjoy collaborating and learning from others. Understanding that dynamic, our multi-age classroom is designed to help children learn and model appropriate behavior from their teachers and peers. Younger children model the actions of the older children, while the older ones take a leadership role in teaching and mentoring their younger classmates.
From the outset, we teach children the art of social graces and how to communicate respectfully with adults and each other in a kind, compassionate manner.
In social settings, young children can often feel uncomfortable in greeting adults and relatives. You may see a child shy away from being near or hugging a family friend or relative. That’s why we believe it’s important to start early and teach children how to greet others with confidence by modeling appropriate behavior in the classroom. We encourage children to greet others by looking at each person in the eye, saying “hello”, and shaking hands in an open and friendly manner. If a child doesn’t feel comfortable at first, we never force or cajole the child. We’ve found that social gestures will come naturally in time as the child develops and becomes more familiar, seeing first-hand the positive results of social interaction.
Treating others respectfully is of paramount importance, not only in the classroom but throughout a child’s life. We teach by example: saying “thank you”, “please”, and “you’re welcome” in a polite, friendly manner to everyone. Children learn to ask permission for what they want nicely, listen to others without interrupting, follow directions, and act courteously.
In classroom activities, children learn how to take turns, share, and be patient with their classmates. Sometimes that means taking time out to solve problems quietly when conflicts arise. Part of teaching and developing personal responsibility is demonstrating how to be mindful of other people’s work areas, activities, and belongings. Ultimately, children will learn to be cognizant of and responsible for their own actions.
Having compassion and understanding for other people’s feelings is truly a sign of emotional intelligence and contributes greatly to a person’s likeability. We teach children how to express their feelings constructively, understand how their actions affect people and be sensitive to the feelings and moods of others. Children are also encouraged to recognize the needs of others and be helpful in providing support and a helping hand. In short, we want to help your child build healthy relationships, make friends and be a good team player. Developing these social and emotional skills offer life-long benefits for your child’s growth, well-being, and future personal and professional relationships.
“It is interesting to see how little by little, these children become aware of forming a community which behaves as such…Once they have reached this level, the children no longer act thoughtlessly, but put the group first and try to succeed for its benefit.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind