The Importance of Building Emotional Intelligence in Children
It is a dream of most parents that their children grow up to be happy and successful. Due to the prevalence of violence, bullying, depression and anxiety in children, it is vital that parents take the lead in teaching their children emotional skills that will result in Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is a terminology coined by Salovey and Mayer, which later resulted in the book Emotional Intelligence written by Daniel Goleman and is the key to raising a well-rounded adult.
Definition of Emotional Intelligence
Goleman believes people who have high EQ have been shown to score higher on standardized tests, display less self-destructive behavior, get along well with others, are less depressed and anxious, and have better physical health. It consists of:
1. Knowing one’s emotions. Ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment.
2. Managing emotions. Capacity to soothe oneself, to shake off rampant anxiety, gloom, or irritability and the consequences of failure to do this.
3. Motivating oneself. Directing emotions towards a goal.
4. Recognizing emotions in others. Ability to empathize with others.
5. Handling relationships. Skill at managing emotions in others.
Parenting styles that interfere with social-emotional skill building
1. Ignoring feelings altogether. Either treating feelings as a nuisance or waiting for them to pass and missing the opportunity to teach these skills.
2. Being too laissez-faire. These parents allow the feelings but don’t intervene to help their children learn how to manage their feelings.
3. Being contemptuous, showing no respect for how the child feels. These parents might forbid expressions of negative feelings or punish these displays of emotions.
Teaching Emotional Intelligence
1. Starting when children are babies, parents can give large daily amounts of approval and encouragement. According to Alex Haley, author of Roots, “Find the positive and praise it.” This helps create people who are optimistic and confident.
2. Act as an emotional coach or mentor when your children are upset. Take the feelings seriously, empathize with them and help children soothe themselves.
3. Don’t always try to fix negative feelings. Simply empathize with feelings such as, “This is hard for you,” or “You didn’t like how you were treated.” If you rush to move children too quickly through their negative feelings, they could get the message that these feelings don’t matter and not come back to tell you how they feel in the future.
4. Label your feelings and help children label their feelings. As a result, children will expand their vocabulary and become more emotionally literate.
5. Model appropriate self-control. It is okay to get angry or frustrated but remember children are watching their parents closely. Saying things such as “I am getting angry because you are not listening,” or “I am frustrated that I just spilled the milk” can give children good examples of how to respond to adversity and tough emotions.
6. At young ages, read books with children about social-emotional topics such as sharing, joining in a group, calming skills, anger management, etc. Tools can be found at http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/strategies.html and local libraries in the children’s section. Also look for preschools that teach social-emotional skills as part of their curriculum. Many child care settings are using The Incredible Years Dinosaur School Program and Second Step.
In an era where academic standards are overwhelming and the importance of grades and test scores can be overemphasized, it is crucial to remember what truly makes a successful adult is having a high EQ. Unlike IQ, this quotient doesn’t just arrive with a child at birth. It must be nurtured and consciously taught.