When you hear the term “IQ” what do you think of? Perhaps math or science, maybe a challenging exam of multiple parts, and quite possibly that iconic face of genius Albert Einstein.

But what would come to mind if you heard the term “EQ”? IQ is a measurement of someone’s mental intelligence or capacities. EQ, on the other hand, represents an individual’s emotional intelligence (or maturity, one might argue). Intelligence and maturity are related in this sense by the concept of development. Three of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of intelligence include “the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations,” “mental acuteness,” and “the act of understanding.” Merriam-Webster defines the word "mature" as being “of or relating to a condition of full development.” Thus, intelligence could signify the capacity to develop, while maturity could refer to the level of development achieved. You could say that one who is very emotionally mature would have a higher EQ.

Emotional Intelligence “Broken Down”

Michael Akers and Grover Porter of Psych Central explain that a person’s EQ is more vital to being successful in life than a person’s IQ. “As individuals our success and the success of the profession today depend on our ability to read other people’s signals and react appropriately to them” (Akers). They break down Emotional Intelligence into five main categories: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

First, self-awareness is a crucial step towards achieving emotional maturity. To be self-aware means that you can recognize the emotions you are experiencing and the effects they can have. When that is established, self-confidence can follow.

Second, self-regulation allows an individual power to control emotions by shortening the length or severity of negative emotions. This control and adaptability empowers individuals, allowing them to truly be the master of themselves. Self-regulation is key to being able to guide how an argument or discussion will go, and it brings a sense of responsibility for one’s own actions and words, regardless of feelings that may arise.

Third, motivation is the drive to act, to perform, to overcome, to commit, and to fulfill one’s promises. Good intentions are a necessary start, but will get a person nowhere unless he or she has the motivation to accomplish the tasks necessary.

Fourth, empathy allows an individual to replace selfishness with selflessness. It does this by bringing an awareness of the feelings and needs of others, and opens up opportunities to teach, serve, listen, understand, and improve situations for both self and others.

Fifth, and perhaps one of the trickiest to learn, is the development of mature social skills. Good people skills can help a family or friendship run smoothly and strongly, and can bring success to career relationships within and between companies. Someone with mature social skills has the ability to make decisions, delegate, problem-solve, and resolve conflict. He or she is an adept communicator of ideas and can accurately interpret what others are trying to communicate.

These EQ skills can also be categorized into four main abilities: perceiving, reasoning, understanding, and managing (Cherry). With these four tools of developing and dealing with emotions, a person can become successful in many areas of life. The great thing is, EQ can increase as a person practices these skills.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught to Children?

There are many ways to help children develop a higher EQ, the easiest way being frequent communication with your children about their emotions. John Gottman, Ph.D., in his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child states that Emotion Coaching not only helps children learn to effectively deal with their emotions, but it can also “provide a framework for maintaining a close personal relationship with our children as they develop” (17). He asserts, “When parents offer their children empathy and help them cope with negative feelings like anger, sadness, and fear, parents build bridges of loyalty and affection.” Gottman offers a five step coaching program that helps parents learn to recognize and understand their child’s emotions, listen to the child, and then teach the child how to understand his or her own emotions and choose an appropriate way to deal with them.

Dr. Laura Markham also offers five tips to help nurture a higher EQ in your children. These include:

  • Empathizing with your child - seek to understand why he or she is upset

  • Allowing your child to express their feelings - accepting negative emotions is the first step to dealing with them

  • Listening to your child - “When we help our children feel safe enough to feel and express their emotions, we not only heal their psyches and bodies, we help them trust their own emotional process so they can handle their own emotions as they get older, without tantrums or repression.”

  • Teaching problem solving skills - once a child can pinpoint the problem they need to know what to do next

  • Role-playing - practicing encourages memory and learning! When a child can practice feeling what it’s like to effectively deal with negative emotions, he or she will be able to remember these tools and come back to them when they are really needed

In addition, Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. suggests helping your child identify his or her stress response (what regularly happens when he or she feels stress). This can help a child feel more in control when he or she recognizes why he or she is acting a certain way, and can empower them to change negative responses to positive ones. In addition, try helping your child engage one or more of their senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). This can greatly relieve building stress. “Each person responds differently to sensory input,” Bernstein reminds, “so you need to find things that are soothing and/or energizing to you. For example, if your child is a visual person he can relieve stress by surrounding himself with uplifting images. If he responds more to sound, you may find a wind chime, a favorite piece of music, or the sound of a water fountain helps to quickly reduce his stress levels.”

Patience, Patience, Patience

Learning a new skill often takes more than one event or day. As you encourage a higher EQ in your children and in yourself, be patient and allow them the necessary time to learn. Every parent teaches differently and each child learns in his or her own way. Figure out what techniques work best to you for your kids. Then, through diligence, patience, and love, your children will develop a higher level of emotional intelligence that will bring less stress and greater success to their lives.


SOURCES:

Cherry, Kendra. “What Is Emotional Intelligence?: Definitions, History, and Measures of Emotional Intelligence.” About.com Psychology. 2014. Web. 29 July 2014. http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/emotionalintell.htm

Akers, Michael and Grover Porter. “What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?” PsychCentral. 2007. Web. 29 July 2014. http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-emotional-intelligence-eq/0001037

Markam, Laura. “5 Steps To Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Your Child.” Aha! Parenting.com. 2014. Web. 29 July 2014. http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/raise-great-kids/emotionally-intelligent-child/emotional-intelligence-child

Bernstein, Jeffrey. “Three Easy Ways to Raise Your Child's Emotional Intelligence.” Liking the Child You Love. Psychology Today. 9 Feb 2013. Web. 29 July 2014. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/liking-the-child-you-love/201302/three-easy-ways-raise-your-childs-emotional-intelligence-2

Gottman, John. Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1997. Print. 29 July 2014.

Like the article? We bet you’ll love this book:
Written after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen is an invaluable tool for helping children identify feelings that overwhelm them with anx...
Love, Hugs, and Hope

Christy Monson