Building Up Kids’ EQ
Emotional Intelligence or EQ, is the ability to understand one’s feelings as well as others’, and to be able to cope with and respond to such feelings. In a nutshell, it is the ability to think and act through emotions. It is the package of experiences and interactions between a parent and his/her child that builds resilience, social and emotional intelligence, and prepares them for what lies ahead in life.
EQ involves a wide range of skills that children of all ages can develop and/or improve. Research has shown that these skills are critical for emotional well-being, as well as career and life success; such as becoming effective in building and maintaining relationships; managing conflicts, and during stress-related life events.
Teenagers, especially, need these skills to be emotionally prepared for their life beyond school. Psychologists Daniel Goleman and Thomas Gordon have scientific evidence and research to support that EQ can be acquired through skill-based training and building of positive habits of thinking and communicating.
Here are a few examples that may indicate that your child needs to develop his/her EQ:
- They often feel like others don’t get their point and it makes them impatient and frustrated.
- Their comments or jokes show inconsideration for others.
- They act angrily with defensiveness when others comment on their point of view or express an opposite point of view.
- They don’t understand others’ views or actions.
- They blame others and always expect others to understand them.
Self awareness, one of the components of EQ, is one’s view of self and accepting it. Many children are not fully aware of their strengths or weaknesses and here are some reasons why:
- The way parents talk to their children helps shape their view of themselves. So if a parent always highlights their weaknesses, the child will be more aware of his weaknesses. On the contrary, parents who only highlight their children’s strengths are also doing their children a disservice by disengaging them from their weaknesses. Therefore, it’s important that parents don’t criticize or praise only, but instead have balanced conversations about what their children do and how their behavior impacts them or the child himself.
- Most parents aren’t skilled in talking in an objective, non-blameful way, and in being self-aware of his/her own feelings about the child’s behavior and actions and its impact on the parent.
- Some parents are afraid to encourage their child. However, it is important to encourage children’s efforts regardless of the results obtained.
- Some parents expect too much from their children. They want them to excel in everything, burdening their children with these expectations. Parents need to know and understand the various intelligences and to focus on what their child is naturally intelligent at and work around that.
Self-awareness is the foundation on which self-management is built. The child needs to first be capable of understanding and expressing himself to others, and handling how he feels around what they do or say. Then he will have a higher chance of influencing them, resolving conflicts, and building effective relationships with people in his life.
In other words, self-management involves skillful emotional coping; understanding how one feels, adapting to it, and working through it in a rational way with oneself and with others.
Parents can have a role in teaching their child how to describe and name a certain feeling. A skill that I coach parents on acquiring is called Active Listening. The origin of Active listening goes back to the 1960’s when it was developed by psychologists: Carl Rogers and Dr. Thomas Gordon during client-centered therapy. Dr. Gordon used this skill in his coaching program for parents called Parent Effectiveness Training (PET). Parents learn how to actively listen to their children and reflect back by describing the feeling and total experience that the child is trying to express. Remember children need to learn how to name things, and the same applies to feelings. So when you teach the child the name of a feeling, it becomes easier for them to say it later when they experience it in another incident.
Accordingly, children need to learn acceptance of differences (acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing or disagreeing) and empathy. Acceptance of differences helps them adapt an open attitude when listening to others; listening in order to understand without judgment or criticism. Empathic understanding of others and their feelings helps children to be considerate towards other people and their needs – not just the parent. Children learn that others have needs and that those needs should be respected. Communicating this understanding and respect increases the influence they have on others; they gain the trust, respect, and cooperation of others; and manage to get their own needs fulfilled easier.
Understanding self and others, and clearly expressing thoughts and feelings are the cornerstones of setting boundaries with others. Children learn to express their needs and respect others’ needs, and work around solutions during conflicts.
Parents need to act as role models by developing their own EQ; self awareness and management, and adapting a resourceful attitude about problems and conflicts as well.
When parents effectively develop their own intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, they set an effective role model for their children. It is the package of experiences and interactions between a parent and his/her child that builds resilience, social and emotional intelligence, and prepares them for what lies ahead in life.