Emotional intelligence is a term that is often heard, but it is important to know what it is to assume the importance of working on it from early childhood. If we consider the child as an integral being, we must know that the cognitive and emotional aspects are linked and in constant interaction. It is necessary to alert educators of the importance of their role in schools regarding education and care for emotions, since the subsequent success or failure of their students depends on it. We educate children today so that they are able to efficiently solve any obstacle that comes their way in life. To achieve a peace culture, it is necessary to aim towards a comprehensive education at school, where the person is seen from all its dimensions and this must start from early childhood education.
One of the most important stages to develop emotional intelligence is childhood, since this will directly influence the formation of their self-concept and personal self-realization. Children develop their potential in encounters and interactions with other children and with the referring adults around them. In that process, it is important to develop skills that allow them to manage their own emotions and understand those of others. UNESCO values and includes learning related to knowing, being, doing, living together and transforming as pillars of education.
Stimulating emotional intelligence in children from early years will allow them to interact in a more respectful, empathetic and tolerant way towards each other and will contribute in the building of an educated and balanced society, regarding emotions.
During early childhood it is essential to provide the child with a rich formation in values - for example, respect and empathy – so that he can live in harmony with others, be self-confident, communicate effectively, etc. These aspects are essential for the emotional development of a child. A child who works his assertiveness will have a healthy emotionality. If you are able to express your opinion and defend it, then you will be able to say «no» without feeling guilty. It is very probable that a self-confident child will be emotionally more capable to cope with life’s challenges with resilience and positivity, such as criticism or negative comments, or to respect opinions different from his own. Among the skills that are sought to develop from early childhood, are those related to communication. Emotional intelligence starts from the premise that a child who is able to understand his feelings and emotions will be able to express them better than another one who cannot recognize them in himself or in others. The relationship between emotional intelligence and school performance is evident; therefore, in order for the child to potentiate his skills, we must promote emotionally healthy environments from school and, to achieve this, it is necessary to opt for educational methodologies that see the child from all its dimensions. Thus, a comprehensive education has three dimensions: mental, bodily and emotional. It must break with the paradigm that prioritized the cognitive part over the body or emotion. The relationship between emotional intelligence and school performance is evident; therefore, in order for the child to potentiate his competences, we must promote emotionally healthy environments from school and, to achieve this, it is necessary to opt for educational methodologies that see the child from all its dimensions. Thus, an holistic education has three dimensions: mental, corporal and emotional. It must break with the paradigm that prioritized the cognitive over body or emotion.
Most of the students leave school knowing how to read and write correctly, they can also be very competent in mathematics, but many don’t have tools to control their emotions because they didn’t have the opportunity to work on them. At the first difficulty they face, they react impulsively, they paralize or run from it. Many times they don’t know how to choose the best options or make good decisions. This is the result of the small knowledge they have of themselves added to the fact that they didn’t learn to manage their emotions from a young age in daily situations that occurred in school. To fulfill this purpose, the teacher must keep emotions in mind when planning projects and designing strategies that lead his students to seek a balance between reason and emotion. Children need spaces to speak about their feelings and emotions with confidence, freedom and without being judged.
Goleman says that to achieve balance between reason and heart, we must learn to use the heart with intelligence, that is, that both parts are inseparable. Therefore, it is ideal to know how to use emotions intelligently and train the ability to resolve problematic situations assertively. The responsibility of caring for and working on the emotional aspect with children goes beyond the classroom, it also involves the commitment of parents, the school and the community, all together in the mission of educating a generation of people who feel whole, healthy and are willing to improve.
Teachers must attend to and contain the emotions of our students by giving them the best mirror of themselves. For example, when a child loses control in class, the teacher must find a way to help him become aware of his emotional state, that the child can see the facts objectively and together find a solution to the problem. Behind anger or frustration, there is a underlying reason that is not necessarily obvious. The teacher must have the ability to help the child calm down and identify the true cause what is bothering him. However, it is her responsibility to work on her own emotions first so that she can contain students with the empathy and love they deserve.
Sometimes teachers are not aware of our own emotions and allow anger to invade us by feeling attacked by some reaction of our students or by interpreting some behavior as disrespect, coming to react impulsively or with a violent attitude towards the child. The teacher is not aware of the impact her reaction can have on emotional learning, not only for that student, but for the entire class. So, it is very important that teachers work on this and that they are aware of their own emotions: knowing them, managing them and recognizing them in others.
The bond established in the classroom is basic for learning. One of the aspects of the hidden curriculum refers to the fact that teachers’ discourse does not teach as much as their own actions and attitudes. Establishing a good emotional climate in the classroom is another great responsibility of all teachers. It is necessary to be attentive to the situations that generate stress for him or the children and observe how they express them, both himself and each of his students, in order to anticipate possible conflicts. We must promote an environment that fosters empathy and problem solving in a healthy way and with respect for the needs of each of the parties, in which problems are taken as a moment and time for learning.
Making a review of the National Basic Education Curriculum (CNEB), we note the special interest in the work of emotions from school. The graduation profile defines «educating» as accompanying a person in the process of generating their own internal, cognitive and socio-emotional structures, so that they achieve their maximum potential. This new definition prioritizes emotional intelligence as an important part of holistic education. Among the transversal approaches, the word empathy appears within the values that must be developed throughout the training process. The attitudes that empathy implies are: the affective identification of the feelings of the other and the disposition to support and understand their circumstances.
Self-improvement is mentioned in the treatment on the search for excellence, which implies the disposition to acquire qualities that will improve one’s own development and increase the state of satisfaction with oneself and with circumstances. In both cases, social abilities and emotional intelligence must be worked on in an organized way to acquire this values.
If we intend to transform the society in which we live, lower the violence levels, have citizens who respect each other and care about others, and if we want a more inclusive, tolerant and diversity-minded society, then we need to develop both intelligences : cognitive and emotional.
Shapiro L. (1997) Inteligencia Emocional en los Niños.
Emocionarte con los Niños Macarena Chía, José Zurita, Desclée de Brower.
Goleman, D. La Inteligencia Emocional en la Práctica