Developing Emotional Intelligence in Children
It's natural to want to see children succeed and live up to their full potential. Developing a child's IQ and ability to grow academically is highly important, but it has been proven that IQ is not the sole determining factor of future potential and success—neither are opportunity or financial stability. In this increasingly complex world, we must explore the deeper factors of how children develop emotional maturity.
It is somewhat alarming, yet not surprising, to hear reports of children experiencing more anxiety, even panic attacks, when it comes to academic achievement. Test anxiety is very real. The source of this boils down to a level of emotional intelligence.
Consider the difference between two children. The first child gets extremely nervous during tests, yet will not share this with her parents. Instead of asking for help, she struggles with being overwhelmed and with the fear of knowing her parents will be upset with her test results. She is therefore prone to throwing fits of frustration or lying about her studies. The second child, on the other hand, knows when she is feeling frustrated and communicates this. Her parents empathize, offering the emotional support she needs to have confidence in taking tests, and even if she does not perform to expectations, she is secure in knowing that this will not be held against her. It does not take a psychology degree to know which child will be more successful in the future.
When a child is struggling with their emotions, they will not have the attention span necessary for learning. Because they are still growing in maturity, they do not yet possess the capacity to regulate responses to feelings. This results in "acting out," or "shutting down," which ultimately impedes any type of learning.
That One Teacher
Most people have a story about that one teacher they will always remember. This is the teacher who brought joy into our lives, and we loved going to their class. Typically, this also led to better grades and deeper learning. This is the teacher with high EQ. Teaching can be very emotional, but the teacher with a high EQ has the skills to bring joy into the class and have equally joyful interactions with students. The result is naturally enhanced self-esteem, belief in personal potential, and increased academic capacity.
Doing Hard Things
Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth is considered a leading expert in the research of grit and self-control--two attributes that are distinct from IQ and yet powerfully predict success and well-being in children. In the Duckworth family, every member must learn to do "one hard thing." She advises parents and educators to teach children that learning grit and self control is meant to feel hard and frustrating. It is normal to feel like quitting. Once children understand this, with the associated emotions, they are able to press through and develop the skills of grit and self-control.
Grit and self-control are bolstered by EQ and what we call "conversational parenting" for parents, or "conversational teaching" for educators. The more parents and teachers are able to develop emotional intelligence and attune to the feelings of their children and students, the easier it is to have conversations about sticking with, and achieving, the hard things in life.
Conversational vs. Command and Correct
Often, we see parents and educators take two approaches when trying to help children prepare for the future. The first is a commanding approach where the adult knows best and the child must comply. The second is constantly correcting and telling the child they can improve. Both methods are very natural and automatic, but they do not build emotional intelligence.
When you have emotionally intelligent conversations with a child, you are setting an example. Acknowledging feelings and talking things through will help the child with the following:
- Be self-aware - Knows how they are feeling.
- Self-regulate - Knows how responses affect others and acts appropriately.
- Motivate themselves - Can accomplish tasks without being deterred or distracted by negative emotions.
- Empathize with others - Can see how others feel without being told.
- Develop social skills - Can synchronize with groups and manage healthy relationships.
Children are the future. We are especially excited around the results parents and children have experienced using Conversational EQ.