Emotional intelligence (EQ) sometimes can be undervalued, but understanding its importance is critical to healthy child development.
EQ includes knowing one’s emotions (self awareness), coping with emotions in an appropriate, constructive manner, and recognizing and managing emotions in others. Children with high EQ are more self-confident and resilient, have stronger social skills and make better life choices. Ultimately, they are more successful.
Children with high EQ are more self-confident and resilient, have stronger social skills and make better life choices. Ultimately, they are more successful.
An article in the New York Times entitled “Playing Nicely with Others: Why Schools Teach Social Emotional Learning” supports the need to develop emotional intelligence in schools as well as at home.
At Agnes Irwin, Lower School girls have weekly classes called “Let’s Care” that emphasize the “four C’s”: caring, communicating, coping and character building. Caring is being kind and respectful, listening to others, and apologizing when we hurt someone. Communicating refers to the ability to talk about feelings, using words that help instead of hurt. Coping is learning to express and manage feelings in a variety of ways, including learning relaxation techniques. Character building refers to developing resiliency, honesty, and personal responsibility.
How parents can help
Not only is it important for schools to provide social emotional learning, but parents need to support the development of emotional intelligence in their children as well. To start, parents should educate themselves about EQ through books and lectures. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ is a good resource. In addition, John Gottman’s Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child provides a road map for parents.
Specifically, parents need to become an “emotion coach” for their children. To be an emotion coach, parents have to regulate their own emotions. For example, when a parent is angry, he or she needs to speak in a stern voice, but should not scream and lose control. In effect, the parent becomes the child’s emotional container. Listen empathetically. Acknowledge and validate a child’s feeling. Help the child label the emotions he or she is having.
To be an emotion coach, parents have to regulate their own emotions.
While parents accept the feelings, they do not accept the behavior. Instead, parents set limits and explore ways to solve problems. Research indicates that when parents use a coaching style of parenting, children are better able to soothe themselves, bounce back from distress, and be productive in school.
Specific tips for parents
Finally, if you are finding it difficult to develop emotional intelligence in your child, consult with a child psychologist who can support you as a parent. You will never regret getting help to be a better parent, but you may regret not learning how to develop EQ in your child.
Dr. Lisa Dissinger, Lower School psychologist