Ask your child’s teacher for some data points about academic progress and they will have a wealth of tools in their arsenal to give you specific information. They have reading scores, testing benchmarks that show growth in mathematics, and a portfolio that demonstrates proficiency at a variety of writing tasks. The reason for the quantification of your child’s progress? Data-driven instruction has taken a foothold in education, and teachers are asked to consistently review student progress to assess growth, measure mastery, or remediate deficiencies.
At parent/teacher conferences, these data points provide excellent talking points about how your child is progressing during their school year. However, one critical area of child development is often not represented in data points, conferences, or remediation plans: emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence is just as critical to a child’s success as academic intelligence, so why isn’t this an area of discussion? Here, we’ll examine what emotional intelligence is, why its important, and how parents can begin teaching these critical communication skills.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, or emotional IQ, is the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions while also connecting to others’ emotional state. In a young child, this might take the form of comforting another child when they are upset or worried, while in older children it manifests as the ability to control their anger without displaying an outburst. Emotional intelligence may not be as easily quantified as academic intelligence, but it is certainly just as important for children to learn how to regulate themselves and work well with others. In an increasingly digital world, where subtleties in facial emotions and voice intonation are lost, emotional intelligence becomes much more difficult for children to navigate.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
In addition to academic success, parents strive to raise children who are kind, thoughtful, and productive members of society. Children who have high emotional intelligence relate well with their peers, possess self-monitoring skills to regulate their emotions, and often have wide circles of friends because they relate well to their peers. As adults, this translates perfectly into employees who are self-motivated, work well with others, and can “read” tricky situations with co-workers or clients. Many employers seek new hires with high emotional intelligence over IQ scores or academic performance because they know these employees succeed in areas that can’t be measured by traditional data points.
How Can Parents Support Emotional Intelligence?
With a little guidance, parents can ensure that their child’s emotional IQ is developing at the same rate as their academic progress. Some suggestions include:
Involve Your Child’s Teacher: Parents should utilize their child’s teacher for the same wealth of knowledge about emotional IQ since they see your child in a variety of different setting with their peers. Ask questions such as, “How does my child deal with criticism?” or “Does my child notice or react when another child is hurt?” These questions can open the door for conversations with your child about how they can regulate their emotions or notice others’ emotions. These are not easy discussions to have with your child’s teacher, so please be open to their honest feedback, knowing that it will be a great “jumping off” point to discuss emotional intelligence with your child.
Have Your Child Reflect on Their Emotions: When children are angry, sad, or throwing a tantrum, there is (usually) an underlying reason. Once your child is calm, re-visit the emotion and have them explain what caused them to react in the manner they chose. This self-reflection is critical to high emotional intelligence and allows children a chance to see how their emotions are connected to their actions.
Praise Apologies and Forgiveness: Employees that hold grudges and can never admit mistakes are often some of the most frustrating people to work with. Beginning when a child is young, praise them when they apologize and explain why it is important to “forgive and forget” when it comes to minor transgressions.
Volunteer with Your Child: Show your child the importance of selfless service by volunteering with them at a local food pantry, religious organization, or neighborhood cleanup committee. Children learn by example, and if they see you spending your time helping others, they’re more likely to see it as a valuable activity.
Communicating with your child, as well as the people and adults around them, helps build emotional intelligence in children. At Hello, our goal is also about fostering quality communication, using our expert coaching team with years of experience.
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