Nurturing Emotional Intelligence in Your Child

You may have heard of IQ (intelligence quotient), but children who have developed their EQ (emotional quotient), have been found to be physically healthier, do better in school and get along better with friends. EQ is the ability to identify, understand, and regulate one’s own emotions and the emotion of others.

IQ vs EQ

It is a common misconception that either IQ or EQ are more significant than the other in predicting success in life. IQ and EQ are only different in terms of what they measure. IQ measures your cognitive intelligence – problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, reasoning, logic, mathematics – and how good you are at processing information. Alternatively, EQ measures your emotional intelligence and how good you are at processing emotional information to guide your decision and action. As an analogy, your IQ can predict your career path or field, while your EQ can determine how well you perform at the position and how well you cooperate with your colleagues.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, found that EQ consisted of five components:

  • Self-awareness: the ability to recognise our own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals.
  • Self-regulation: the ability to control our own emotions in reacting to circumstances.
  • Internal motivation: the drive to achieve or accomplish our own goals in life.
  • Empathy: the ability to understand and consider others’ emotions.
  • Social skills: the ability to build and manage relationship.

He estimated that IQ makes up at best only 20 percent of the factors that determine life success. The rest, such as EQ, wealth, temperament, family education levels and pure luck make up the balance.

Another psychologist, John Gottman, observed how parents responded to their children’s emotions in an effort to understand how EQ develops and found that parents generally responded to their children’s emotions in one of four possible ways: (Excerpt from How to Strengthen Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence)

  1. Dismissing parents saw children’s emotions as unimportant and attempted to eliminate them quickly, often through the use of distraction.
  2. Disapproving parents saw negative emotions as something to be squashed, usually through punishment.
  3. Laissez-faire parents accepted all emotions from children, but failed to help the child solve problems or put limits on inappropriate behaviours.
  4. Emotion coaching parents valued both positive and negative emotions, were not impatient with a child’s expression of them, and used emotional experience as an opportunity for bonding by offering guidance through appropriately labelling emotions and problem-solving the issue(s) at hand.

Nurturing a Child’s EQ

Based on his observations of parents interacting with their children, Gottman recommended the following five steps to nurturing and improving a child’s EQ.

Step 1: Being aware of your child’s emotions
Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and are also sensitive to the emotions that are present in their children. They don’t wait for their child to escalate their behaviour or act out their emotional expression for their feelings to be acknowledged.

Step 2: See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching
Children’s emotions are not an inconvenience or a challenge. They are an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through a challenging feeling.

Step 3: Listen and validate the feelings
Give your child your full attention while you listen to their emotional expression. Reflect back what you hear, thus telling your child you understand what they’re seeing and experiencing.

Step 4: Label their emotions
After you have fully listened, help your child develop an awareness of and vocabulary for their emotional expression.

Step 5: Help your child problem-solve with limits
All emotions are acceptable—but all behaviours are not. Help your child cope with his or her emotions by developing problem-solving skills. Limit the expression to appropriate behaviours. This involves helping your child set goals and generating solutions to reach those goals.

Although the time taken to complete these steps can be initially significant, Gottman found that emotion coaching parents followed all five steps only 20-25 percent of the time, thereby suggesting there is no need for guilt as no parent can complete this process all the time.

Why is EQ important?

Study after study has proven EQ’s importance that emotional intelligence predicts future success in relationships, health and quality of life. It’s been shown that children with high EQs earn better grades, stay in school longer and make healthier choices overall. Teachers also report that high EQ students are more co-operative and make better leaders in the classroom. In addition, having a high emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of career success than having a high IQ, which means it’s valued by employers looking for candidates who can complete work and get along with people in progressively collaborative workplaces. (Excerpt from EQ vs IQ: Why emotional intelligence will take your kid further in life)

EQ is a set of essential skills in life and provides us with a more comprehensive way of information processing. Only enhancing our IQ is not enough for a successful life. Kids with high EQ are more socially effective and have more successful relationships at home and at school. They are more productive and have better attention. Furthermore, people with high EQ are good at leading and managing their associates. They are also less prone to anxiety and depression. High EQ leads to good mental health and social behaviour, and these are important keys to a good life and career. As parents, we should put the same importance on nurturing both IQ and EQ in our kids, as both are complementary abilities that work together for our kids’ development and success as human beings.

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