Why Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence Should Be a Priority

Two little boys standing togetherSo often, parents focus on their child’s level of academic intelligence as a predictor for future success. It goes without saying that children who do well academically typically have more opportunities available to them. However, there is an additional type of intelligence that is sometimes overlooked but is no less important: emotional intelligence.

What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent? Basically, it means being aware of your emotions as well as those of others. It means having the ability to respond to others’ emotions with empathy and validation. It requires knowing yourself, knowing your feelings, and knowing how to balance your needs with others’ needs in complex social situations.

The concept of being emotional is often synonymous with being irrational, a false notion. Emotions serve a purpose. Emotions have their own logic that makes sense. They guide us and can be the driving force for learning and change. There is often a misguided belief that in order for emotions to be regulated, they must be suppressed. However, the regulation of emotions comes from understanding them.

As parents, we want our children to be able to think for themselves, to be compassionate, to treat others well, to think critically and exercise the freedom to disagree, to have value systems similar to our own, to have healthy relationships, to demonstrate strength and gentleness, to have purpose and meaning in their lives, to have a healthy self-esteem, to explore their talents and abilities, to work toward their potential, and to have the ability to step outside of themselves in order to “give back” to the world. Many parents believe that “discipline” is the key to facilitating their children’s character development. However, discipline alone will not suffice. As a society, we need to implement emotion coaching into our parenting in order to teach children how to regulate their emotions as well as how to empathize and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. This is not to say we need to throw out the baby with the bath water by eliminating discipline.

Some suggestions for parents to integrate emotion coaching in order to increase their child’s level of emotional intelligence are:

  • Validate your child’s perspective and empathize. Feeling understood and heard will trigger soothing biochemicals; the neural pathway that is being strengthened each time this happens will be used by your child to self-soothe in the future. Empathizing also teaches your child to empathize with others.
  • Allow your child to express himself/herself. Acceptance of your child’s emotions will allow the child to accept his or her emotions, which is what will allow the child to reconcile his/her feelings and move on. The result is that the child is better able to regulate emotionally.
  • Listen to your child’s feelings. Children need the chance to feel heard when they express their feelings. Once children are able to feel and express their emotions, they can let them go and move on.
  • Teach your child to problem-solve through feelings. When children are able to understand and “feel” their feelings, they learn that their feelings are signals about things they need to process differently and they become more empowered.
  • Allow your child to process feelings through play. It can be overwhelming for children to try to put powerful emotions into words. Play allows children to act out their feelings symbolically and resolve them without needing to talk about them.

Given that the goal of parenting is to raise happy, healthy, and fulfilled people, it makes sense to develop your child’s innate, natural-born emotional intelligence. People who are emotionally healthy are responsible, happy, develop positive character traits, and become solid citizens of the world.

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  • Turner

    Turner

    February 24th, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    I have almost started to think that the people who are intelligent emotionally are the ones who are going to succeed in life. These ate the people who are going to know how to interact with other people, how to converse, how to do all of those things that will help you get ahead in life. I do not think that academics are any less important per se, but I do think that it definitely has its place and should perhaps be a little more valued than it typically is.

  • Macy

    Macy

    February 24th, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    My fear is that schools and society as a whole have become so test driven that how we act isn’t nearly as important as how we perform on tests.

  • miller

    miller

    February 25th, 2015 at 3:34 AM

    It’s because this is not something that we are usually rewarded for.
    We are rewarded for doing well in school, for being that person who is the perfectionist and can do no wrong.
    It’s like we have stopped caring so much about whether we are actually creating good people that other people in this world can deal with too.

  • Tara J.

    Tara J.

    February 25th, 2015 at 11:23 AM

    Seriously not everyone is going to do well from an academic standpoint, but parents should at the very least commit themselves to creating an environment for the child where he or she can thrive emotionally.

    Yes I do lay a whole lot of this responsibility at the feet of the parents, because if they are not able to create this for their child then no one else can.

    We need to all be more aware of how our words and our actions affect other people and we should make sure that from a very early age our own children are able to see this too.

  • Tasha

    Tasha

    February 25th, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    As a Play Therapist and parent educator, this subject in addition to discipline methods are my most controversial subjects. We as a society aren’t socialized to acknowledge the feelings of children, and as such, we have adults who do not have an emotional vocabulary of their own. Consequently, parents are often defensive when discussing a method that does not fit into their “normal”. I find myself using the good stuff included in this article to re-parent my adults so that they are able to entertain the idea of teaching their children.

  • nate

    nate

    February 26th, 2015 at 5:13 AM

    Ultimately I think that it is all about what the priorities of the parents are. If it is all going to be about performance in terms of grades then this is what is going to be stressed the most.

  • D.b.D.

    D.b.D.

    February 27th, 2015 at 12:42 AM

    Yes, what you said is a fact. If the parents stress academic performance the most, that is what they stress the most. You didn’t say what you believe what your opinion is though. I personally think this article has hit the nail on the head far more than anyone is saying. You can get through life without great academic achievement but if you don’t know how to manage your emotions appropriately, or how to control them when necessary, you’re pretty much screwed in a world full of social beings. True you need to be intelligent to hold down a job, handle your daily living needs, and a lot of other aspects of getting through life, but without knowing how to control your emotions and when, or how to recognize nonverbal signs from the people around you and understand all of the very often confusing and conflicting nuances of social interaction which is like the Jell-O and a Jell-O mold with fruit, you’re pretty much screwed. The highest Adamic achievement isn’t going to do you any good if you can’t manage to maneuver your way through the social aspects of a job interview, or the complex social environment amongst coworkers in the workforce not to mention how to negotiate and read other people when buying a car or renting an apartment or any other situation in which you’re depending on another person to reach your goal. Life is social and emotions are what make us human so to dismiss the importance of emotional training or focus from a young age throughout the rest of your life is to deny the reality of who we are and what makes the world go around.

  • Halley

    Halley

    February 26th, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    Anyone can study hard… but it takes truly loving and caring person to get things right emotionally.

    This is something that should definitely be rewarded!

  • tatum

    tatum

    February 28th, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    I think that most parents are so worried about getting into the right schools etc that they forget just how important it is to teach their child to be a good friend :/
    And I also think that there are just as many educators who are guilty of doing that very same thing

  • maddie

    maddie

    February 28th, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    There can be those times though when you almost feel like your child is too emotionally intelligent for their own good, that they are a little too aware too soon and that that can be a little hurtful to them. maybe they are not ready to deal with all of the emotions that can come along with this type of intelligence and there is no real way to hold that back.

  • Fresh

    Fresh

    March 26th, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    Kathy, I appreciate your wisdom on E.I. and especially the point you make that it is important to teach our children but also ourselves. As a daughter of a malignant narcissistic mother(DONM) I became the educated overachiever as some of us DONMs do, but was never taught a healthy E.I. due to the traits of my narcissistic mother who in the least of the mal effects on NE she did not allow me to form my own identity, sense of self. One can teach ourselves the E.I. as we heal as adults. I also appreciated your objective response to the inquiry regarding those of us who must go no contact with our abusive parents. It is not all black and white. The important factor is for us to remember not to judge others. We have not walked in their shoes.

  • Yolanda Harper, LCSW

    Yolanda Harper, LCSW

    May 27th, 2015 at 2:53 PM

    Yes, the Gottmans’ research notes that children who have higher Emotional IQ are more successful than their peers with higher IQ. A lot of the work I do with adults in therapy sessions is to help build an emotion vocabulary and help increase EQ.

  • Karen S.

    Karen S.

    August 9th, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    Parents have to learn to tolerate their children’s sadness without moving in too quickly to “fix” it, trusting that they can add a positive spin on the situation later, after their kids’ feelings have been heard and validated.

  • Orphan Izzy

    Orphan Izzy

    August 16th, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    You are so right. When your feelings are validated by the people who are supposed to be caring about you it feels so awful and makes you feel like you don’t matter at all which leads to frustration and anger and resentment. None of that is going to get a child out of sadness anytime soon right? And this is not quite what I think you were saying about rushing in to fix the problem but my sister did this all the time and it drove me nuts. Anytime one of her children even made it sound like they weren’t happy she would rush over in and cooling caught and you and I and oh my god are you OK and you poor thing and they would freak out because they thought they were supposed to and it was just insane. That said I think she felt like she was validating your feelings by doing that but all she was really doing was making them think that what they thought was no terrible thing must be so much worse than they realized and they would just freak and let’s just say my niece has been in therapy since she could talk practically with anxiety and by the grace of God my nephews very grounded even as a Young boy so I don’t know if there’s going to be terrible consequences as a result of my sisters insanity. Of course because of her insanity I haven’t seen them for over a year but that’s another story. I do think this topic is very important to discuss and to acknowledge and I’m glad that this message board is here.

  • Rosemary D.

    Rosemary D.

    March 18th, 2017 at 2:14 AM

    The Human Values Foundation encourages schools to embrace VALUES EDUCATION, what we consider is quality-of-life education, in their teaching.
    A systematic approach to giving children opportunities to explore the influences of different values on our thinking, decision-making, management of our feelings, and actions, enables them to grow as it progressively develops life skills that nurture, what we refer to as the domains of SPIES – children’s Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social aspects.
    Just stop and consider which are the dominant values that are driving how you manage your emotions and social interactions. The more conscious we are of the values influencing individuals and organisations and the more we consciously use chosen, uplifting values, the better able we are to shape our lives as we would wish.

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