Parents are amazed when their child starts to learn how to read and write, but is there equal amazement when they share their toys with others? What about when they self-soothe? Do they receive the same amount of praise when they regulate their own emotions or show empathy to others? It’s high time to harness emotional intelligence for kids — and it is these EQ lessons, which will be remembered and used throughout their life.
IQ or EQ?
The IQ vs. EQ debate continues to rage on since the term “emotional intelligence” was popularised in 1995 to this day.
IQ, which stands for Intelligence Quotient, is one’s ability to solve problems and deal with reasoning.1 If your child gets high marks in school, he or she is likely to have a high IQ, as this is the kind of intelligence that is measured by the tests they take. It is these high marks that also lead parents to believe that their children will be successful in life.
However, being exceptionally book-smart doesn’t necessarily make you happier or more successful in the long run. According to research by economist James Heckman2, high income isn’t closely tied to IQ. He says that personality, not IQ, plays a more important role. In particular, he points to conscientiousness – marked by diligence, perseverance and self-discipline.3
A greater predictor of long-term success is EQ.4Having EQ, or Emotional Quotient, means “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”1It’s a lifelong skill that your kids will carry with them.
The Importance of EQ
EQ is necessary to survive and thrive. You don’t use geometry formulas on a daily basis, but you will always have feelings and emotions. The same goes for your child – emotional intelligence in kids is needed every day, almost at every waking moment. Having high EQ is important because children learn how to handle their “big” feelings, not just learning how to solve his or her problems, but also understanding themselves better. It also develops their confidence because they learn to be more independent — relying on themselves, not on grown-ups, to handle daily struggles.
So how can you help develop your child’s EQ?
Validate your child’s emotions
First off, brushing your child’s feelings and emotions off as “little things” will make them feel like they’re not important. It’s best to recognize that what your child says, does, or feels is valid, and that you understand them
Focus on the journey, not the solution
Don’t rush to solve your child’s problem right away – sometimes your child just needs someone to listen, or a shoulder to cry on. If you’re afraid that your child will turn into a crybaby because you allow him or her to express emotions, that’s not true. Teach them to self-regulate, vent their frustrations, and then find a solution to their problem.
Manage conflict with empathy
After acknowledging what they’re going through, ask them to imagine how it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. It will help your child understand the “why” behind another person’s hurtful words or actions, teaching them how to handle situations better, and how to be better.
Arm them with grit
And perhaps the best lesson that EQ gives? Grit – the unbeatable, never-say-die attitude that will get your child through anything, from studying for a tough exam to their first heartbreak. Forging forward can be taught, simply by teaching your child to stick to tasks until they’re finished, or to feel through the negative emotion until it passes – and to get back up after they fail.
Remind children to be more mindful.
While kids inherently live in the moment, mindfulness – meaning being aware and fully focused on what’s currently happening – can take practice for both young and old. Children are easily distracted and jump from one task to the next. In order to teach children mindfulness, gently remind them to finish one task prior to starting a new one. If they run into accidents, such as bumping into a playmate or saying hurtful words, saying that they “didn’t mean it”, calm them down and remind them to think before acting.
Encourage to share – and also to set boundaries.
Sharing is caring, as the popular saying goes, and indeed it does! When there’s more than enough to go around, encourage your child to share what they have, whether it be toys or food. Being of help to others gives children a thrill of being of service to others, which inherently gives more joy. But what’s equally important is teaching children to set their boundaries, and being truthful to themselves. Don’t force children to share when they’re not ready, or to give a kiss or hug when they don’t want to. Healthy boundaries is as essential as sharing – it teaches self-love.
As your child winds down for the night, ask him or her to enumerate the events or things that made them happy that day. While they might be too young to realize it, creating this lifelong habit in them will eventually lead them to focus on the bright side of things – that there was more good than bad within the day, and there’s more to be grateful for.
As parents, we are deemed to be the first teachers of our children. After all, our children look up to us, and mimic what we do and say.5 When we have high EQ ourselves – sharing what we have, talking and treating those around us with respect and kindness, and actively listening and understanding our children, we become outstanding models to them to strive to become.
It’s never too early to develop your child’s EQ. Start now and see how much your child will thrive in life.
4Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
5Mayer, J. D., DiPaolo, M., & Salovey, P. (1990). Perceiving affective content in ambiguous visual stimuli: A component of emotional intelligence. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54, 772–781.
Moges, B., & Weber, K. (2014). Parental Influence on the Emotional Development of Children.