People with high emotional intelligence often had these 16 childhood experiences

Have you noticed how emotional intelligence (EI) has become a buzz term?

It could be an after-effect of what the world has been through over the past couple of years, or it may also be the result of the growing emphasis on stress and mental health awareness.

Whatever the reason, emotional intelligence is taking center stage, and we’re here for it.

That said, did you know that how you grew up may have impacted your level of EI?

You read that right, emotional intelligence, just like intelligence, is a combination of nature and nurture. 

In addition to genes, people with high emotional intelligence often had these 16 childhood experiences:

1) They practiced early emotional communication

People with high emotional intelligence are good at describing their emotions, and their upbringing may be responsible for this.

Think about it:

If you had parents who encouraged you to talk about your feelings even as kids, you’d grow up with a pretty good vocabulary that enables you to explain your emotions accurately.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘I don’t recall my mom and dad talking to me about what feelings are,’ think again.

Parents are very creative, and there are a few ways they get their kids to discuss feelings. 

Here are a few:

  • Talking about the emotions the characters feel in a bedtime story or a children’s movie.
  • Encouraging an older sibling to talk about jealousy when a new sibling is born.
  • Openly discussing sadness when a pet dies.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you have your parents to thank for your high EI.

2) They were given positive reinforcement for expressing emotions

Speaking of emotions, how did your parents react whenever you expressed them?

Did they praise you for explaining why you’re angry instead of throwing a tantrum?

Did they compliment you for admitting you were scared on your first school day?

If these questions resonate with you, kudos to your parents for creating an emotionally safe space from the start.

3) Their parents role-modelled emotional intelligence 

Sometimes, the answer is just plain and simple:

Parents who displayed high emotional intelligence to their children likely passed this on to them. 

As the old saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

4) They had a secure attachment as kids.

No, I don’t mean carriers and car seats. 

What I’m getting at is their secure parent-child attachment or the strong bond they had with their primary caregivers. 

This strong connection is responsible for the person developing healthy emotional regulation in adulthood. 

Let’s dig deeper:

Because their caregivers consistently responded to their feelings, they learned to trust that their emotions mattered. This made it easier for them to deal with their feelings as adults.

5) They had heaps of playdates

kids with books People with high emotional intelligence often had these 16 childhood experiences

Apart from developing their social skills, kids who go on playdates or group activities are more likely to grow up having great teamwork and conflict-resolution skills. 

But don’t just take my word for it.

Here’s what experts have to say about it:

Getting along with others is a crucial skill that kids start learning when they play in groups. 

They learn how to cooperate, understand feelings, and they discover the importance of equality and fairness. 

6) They had supportive teachers

Of course, childhood goes beyond the home, and this is where the teachers come in.

Remember your teachers who made everyone feel important?

They’re the ones who helped many adults become great at understanding their own and others’ feelings. 

They’re the educators who taught beyond teaching reading, writing, and maths by practising active listening and shared thoughtful feedback. 

You know, the types of teachers who paid attention and made sure every kid in class felt like they mattered.

7) They had chores and responsibilities

I must admit, I wasn’t a fan of chores growing up. 

Let’s face it: no kid really does, right?

But here’s the beauty of it:

Our chores were mini life lessons in sticking to a job and getting along with others while doing it. They also taught us about responsibility and dealing with frustration when things get tough.

The discipline we learn from childhood tasks translates into emotional maturity and understanding later in life.

8) They played a lot of role-playing games

They may hate chores, but I’m sure kids love pretend play. And for good reason:

Playing house or pretending to be doctors treating stuffed toys teaches children empathy. 

When a kid puts on the shoes of the character they’re playing, they start to see things from another perspective. 

So, while they’re busy giving check-ups to teddy bears and cooking for imaginary friends, they’re also quietly developing the empathy that will define their character as grown-ups.

9) They rocked and doodled

When kids dive into painting or making music, they’re doing more than just having a good time. 

They’re learning to express and figure out their complex emotions without having to say a word, especially when they’re so young and not yet able to talk.

By hitting piano keys or mixing colors, they get better at understanding and sharing what they feel inside. 

Adults with high emotional IQs often use creative outlets to manage their emotions. And this habit probably came from their artistic activities as little ones.

10) They played ball

If you weren’t into arts as a child, maybe sports was your thing. 

And guess what? 

Engaging in team sports also plays a role in developing emotional intelligence.

It teaches kids about cooperation, motivation, handling victory, and taking defeat graciously – traits that define an adult with high EQ.

11) They had mind-body connection activities

Harvard happiness study

I personally haven’t experienced this as a child, but I’m glad that my kids’ school has dedicated time for mindfulness each day. 

My daughter says during mindfulness, they are allowed to do “anything that relaxes us.”

Apparently, sometimes that involves drawing, yoga, breathing exercises, or just munching on their favorite fruit.

So, how do these translate into emotional intelligence in adulthood?

They encourage kids to focus, stay calm, and recognize their feelings – all are keys to emotional smarts when they grow up. 

12) They were given opportunities to make their own decisions

When kids are allowed to make small choices like picking out their own outfits or deciding on what to pack for a weekend picnic, they’re developing big emotional wins.

Sure, they may not be life-changing decisions. 

But they are enough to help them learn to trust their judgment, which ups their EQ and allows them to make transformative choices later in adulthood.

13) They were allowed to ask all sorts of questions

When kids are curious, they’re learning about things around them, including their own feelings. 

And when the people around them respond to their questions, they grow more confident because it makes them feel heard.

So, if you asked a lot of “how’s” or “why’s” as a child, your emotional intelligence meter may be on a whole other level.

14) They traveled a lot

Whether overseas, interstate, or just around your region, if you’ve traveled a lot as a kid, chances are, you have a high emotional intelligence.

Allow me to elaborate:

When you visit a foreign country, you learn about its people and customs. 

Or let’s say it’s just local, like visiting the countryside if you’re a city rat or the other way around. Regardless, you’re still exposed to a different setting, a new way of doing things.

Travel broadens your perspective, improves your communication skills, and promotes a deeper understanding of people from different backgrounds. 

In short, they teach you adaptability and empathy, which are crucial components of emotional intelligence.

15) Their playmates were from many different backgrounds

If you had a diverse group of friends growing up, you’re probably noticing the emotional benefits now. 

You get why people are different, and that helps you get along with people easily. 

You’re also more likely to be open-minded, thoughtful, and quickly adapt to changes. 

Your experience helped you become a culturally aware, respectful, well-rounded individual who can work well with just about anyone.

16) They passed the marshmallow test

No, that’s not a metaphorical marshmallow. 

In fact, a real marshmallow was used in the landmark Standford study.

In this experiment, children were given a choice between an immediate marshmallow reward or a larger reward if they waited 15 minutes.

Follow-up studies showed that individuals who practiced delayed gratification as kids tended to develop stronger emotional intelligence, leading to better life outcomes in areas like academics, health, and personal relationships.

All these are thanks to a single marshmallow. Fascinating, right?

The takeaway

Every emotionally intelligent adult was once a child who played a lot, expressed their emotions, asked many questions, and embraced differences.

In short, those “when I was a kid” stories are more than just anecdotes. 

It turns out they have a strong impact on how emotionally savvy we become as adults.

Picture of Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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