Intelligence experts estimate that only 20 percent of a person’s success is attributed to IQ but that as much as the entire remaining 80 percent may be a direct result of what has become known as EQ, or emotional intelligence. Psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer who are believed to have first coined the term “emotional intelligence,” define it as “a subset of social intelligence that involves 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.” People who have a high EQ exhibit the following:
- Impulse control
- Problem solving skills
- The ability to self soothe
- Delay gratification
- Self motivation
- Read other people’s emotional cues
- Self esteem
- The ability to identify, express and understand feelings
The Benefits of High EQ
According to Lawrence Shapiro, PhD, the author of How to Raise a Child with a High EQ, “having a high EQ may be more important to success in life than a high IQ as measured by a standardized test of verbal and nonverbal cognitive intelligence.” Children who have high EQs achieve better academically, have fewer temper tantrums, are better problem solvers, are less impulsive, have better attention spans, are more motivated, healthier and are more well liked. The great news about EQ, it that parents are the greatest influencers of high EQ. Children learn most of their emotional lessons from their parents and there is a lot parents can do to increase their children’s EQ.
5 Things Parents Can Do to Increase EQ
- Pay attention to your child’s cues, starting from birth. Studies show that infant’s whose caretakers don’t pay attention to their cues have difficulty developing the ability to regulate their emotions. If for example a mother with post partum depression is too depressed to respond to her child’s cues, that baby might give up on crying to communicate and instead become passive and disengaged. Without a parent’s help learning how to calm herself down, she may not learn effective calming skills.
- Teach self calming skills. An anxious baby cannot take in social cues from those around him. An anxious child cannot learn in school or make friends. Children look to their parents to gain these soothing skills. It starts out with parents holding, rocking, talk to and singing to their child to help them calm down. As children get older the skills become more complex. When my daughter Quincy was about 18 months old she went through a period when she was waking up and having trouble calming herself back to sleep. Every night before she went to sleep I would talk to her about “The Plan.” I told her that when she had trouble sleeping that she should turn to her paci, her piggy (a stuffed animal) and her blanket. I made these suggestions based on things I had seen work for her previously. The plan became so ingrained that sometimes she would start to cry and the remind herself out loud, “paci, piggy, blanket.”
- Help children understand and identify their emotions. For young children, intense emotions can be scary and overwhelming. Identifying and labeling emotions can normalize them and allow kids to identify these responses in others which helps develop empathy. Believe it or not, studies show that the act of labeling an emotion can have a soothing effect on the nervous system which allows kids to recover more quickly from upsetting event. According to John Gottman, PhD author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, “This doesn’t mean telling kids how they ought to feel. It simply means helping them develop a vocabulary with which to express their emotions.”
- Reduce television viewing. The average child spends 38 hours a week watching television. According to Shapiro, “it is passive time spent in front of the TV that stunts the growth of EQ skills.” Studies show that children who watch a lot of TV become more: desensitized to the pain and suffering of others, fearful, anxious and aggressive. Experts have found is that children who are frequently exposed to inappropriate images and messages are 11 times more likely to be disruptive, fight with family members, hit other kids, and destroy property. To make that statistic stand out even more, those same researchers claim that children who watched a lot of TV when they were eight years old are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults than their peers who did not watch as much TV. To add insult to injury, all that tube time is time not spent interacting with peers, developing social skills, or problem solving.
- Teach problem solving. The ability to solve problems is developed primarily from experience. Sometimes it is easier for parents to solve their child’s problem rather than teach them how to do it in their own. Children start to learn to problem solve in infancy. When my daughter Mendez was 9 months old we were sitting together while she played with a ball. The ball slipped out of her hands and rolled away from her, just outside of her reach. My first instinct was to solve the problem for her and hand her the ball. But I held back and allowed her to solve the problem for herself. She ultimately crawled over to the ball stretching in a way she never had before and proudly showed me the ball. As children become more verbal they tend to need their parents to brainstorm problem solving ideas with them. The keys for parents is sending the message that every problem has a solution and having the patience to help children find their own age-appropriate resolutions.