You've likely heard the term "emotional intelligence" (or EQ), but do you understand its importance to your child's academic and social success?
Experts agree that EQ skills are more important to a child's future achievement than his grades or intelligence. Many public schools include emotional goals alongside grade-level academic benchmarks, and some even have targeted programs for building EQ.
As we learn more about emotional intelligence, it will become an increasingly valued skill in the workplace. Here's how you can help prepare your child.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and understand emotions - in oneself and in others. Some skills typically associated with emotional intelligence are:
Much like IQ, we're born with a certain level of emotional intelligence. However, learned behavior is also a large component. People of any age can build their emotional intelligence skills for increased productivity, better relationships and healthier choices.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Studies consistently show that EQ is a better predictor of a child's career success than IQ. In fact, EQ skills account for 54 percent of the variation in adults' level of success, one study found. Additionally, children with strong EQ get higher grades, earn more advanced degrees and make healthier life choices.
The benefits of high EQ have become so lauded that many top-level companies - like Google, American Express and FedEx - now use EQ testing as part of their interview processes for new employees. In collaborative, fast-moving corporate environments, the ability to work successfully with others is often more important than pure smarts.
With schools and companies increasingly recognizing the importance of EQ, it's often parents who are behind the curve. Many parents push students to earn high grades but pay little attention to emotional development. Even more fail to notice small opportunities to build emotional skills at home.
How to Build Emotional Intelligence
The best way to foster emotional intelligence is to model it. Take some time to evaluate the way you express your emotions. When you have a negative emotional response, do you label it honestly and express your underlying frustrations? Repressing negative emotions usually causes them to leak out in unhealthy ways, like resentment, explosive anger or nervous habits.
If you have room to improve when it comes to modeling emotional intelligence, don't fret. These skills are challenging, and people of any age can work on them. As you talk more openly about emotions at home, your child will become more empathetic and more self-aware.
Here are some other ways to build EQ at home:
Stories are how we make sense of the world around us. For children, this is especially true. Make sure your child has ample opportunities to read on her own. This may mean weekly trips to the library or limited screen time.
While your student will be assigned books in school, this obligatory reading should not be the only reading your student does. Help him discover his own literary interests, whether that's science fiction, comic books, graphic novels, fantasy or biographies.
Reading is the best tool for building empathy because students experience the world through the eyes of characters who are different from them. In fact, reading is the only self-guided way for children to get inside someone else's head.
Strong empathy helps students build supportive friendships, connect with bosses and coworkers, and avoid off-putting or antisocial behaviors.
2. Acknowledge Emotions
Understanding and labeling emotions is a huge component of self-awareness. Toddlers throw tantrums because they don't have the language skills to express themselves. As children age, it's important to help them develop those skills and accurately label their feelings.
Here are some example statements for constructively labeling emotions:
"You wanted a popsicle, but you can't have one before dinner. You feel so frustrated."
"It's tough for you to brush your teeth when you don't want to, but it's time now."
"You're disappointed that we can't go to the pool today."
"You're mad that Anthony isn't sharing his toy!"
"You get to stay up late with your brother. You're so happy and excited!"
3. Encourage Self-Expression
Do you often find yourself saying things to your child like, "Don't be upset," or, "Stop crying"? While this is a natural response to seeing your child upset, it's beneficial to let him express his emotions instead of correcting him. If children feel ashamed of their emotions, they repress negative feelings and fail to develop helpful communication and coping strategies.
Always listen to your children and affirm their emotions before offering advice. Affirming their emotions does not mean that you condone their behaviors - it's simply a way to let them know you care and that their feelings are valid.
When you do give advice, guide your child to her own conclusion, rather than offering your own. This helps her build interpersonal problem-solving skills (which can be tough to develop in the age of social media). If your child is being mistreated by a friend at school, you might ask, "What could you say to Angie that would let her know how you feel?"
Here are some ways to encourage healthy self-expression:
"You're feeling very angry that you're not allowed to go to the party, but slamming your door is not allowed. Tell me in words how you feel. I will not change my mind, but I will listen."
"What a terrible day! Of course you're crying - your friends made you feel embarrassed!"
"It seems like you're anxious about your test today. I get nervous before tests, too. Do you want to talk about it?"
4. Pretend Play
For small children, pretend play is an excellent way to process the surrounding world. (All species use play for this purpose!)
If you notice your child struggling with a particular social dynamic or negative emotion, try to incorporate it into your next play session. Here's the kicker: Instead of minimizing or dismissing their emotion in your imaginary world, make it more pronounced.
For example, if your child is jealous of his brother, play a short game where no matter the outcome, his brother is declared the winner. Let your child be in on the joke - let him protest dramatically and fall over in despair. Children love repetitive games with a recurring "punch line." By acknowledging a negative emotion while still making your child the "star" of the scene, you bring the unhealthy dynamic to light and let it dissipate.
Reading for EQ
Wondering how to help your elementary student build emotional intelligence through reading? Call us at 847-834-0791 to learn more about our expert elementary language arts tutors.