Emotional Intelligence is Critical to Creating Strong Kids
By Mary Ann Benson, M.S.W., L.S.W.
I have been doing outpatient, mental health counseling for 15 years. At the initial visit with a new client, I always ask how emotions were managed in his or her family of origin. Ninety-nine per cent of the time the response is “They weren’t.” It seems clear to me that we are neglecting an important element of raising children that few of us realize is missing.
Parenting is often an experience for which most people are not adequately prepared. We may learn some superficial information about how to care for a child physically, but we are not tutored in how to help a child to identify and manage his or her emotions. Educate and Empower Kids’ new book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child, is a great resource for parents with easy to understand, concrete directions to help parents to maneuver the often unchartered waters of emotional education.
I appreciate the straightforward approach our book takes, giving reasons why each topic is important, as well as offering sample dialogue and activities to teach specific emotions. It makes learning a fun, interactive experience and creates connection between the parent and child. Further resources are offered for personal exploration so that additional information can be obtained based on individual needs.
Social and Emotional Intelligence
There has been a great deal of focus on emotional intelligence since that term was coined by John Mayer, now at the University of New Hampshire, and Yale’s Peter Salovey (Goleman, n.d). Some educators have created programs in social and emotional learning or SEL. In the United States many districts and even entire states currently make SEL curriculum a requirement, mandating that just as students must attain a certain level of competence in math and language, so too should they master these essential skills for living (Goleman, n.d).
What should our children be capable of understanding…and when?
In Illinois, specific learning standards in SEL abilities have been established for every grade from kindergarten through the end of high school.
- In the early elementary years students should learn to recognize and accurately label their emotions and how they lead them to act.
- By the late elementary years, lessons in empathy should make children able to identify the nonverbal clues to how someone else feels.
- In junior high they should be able to analyze what creates stress for them or what motivates their best performance.
- In high school the SEL skills include listening and talking in ways that resolve conflicts instead of escalating them and negotiating for win-win solutions (Goleman, n.d).
Why emotional intelligence is important to your child’s future.
There is now a considerable body of research suggesting that a person’s ability to perceive, identify, and manage emotion provides the kinds of social and emotional competencies that are important for success in almost any job (Cherniss, 2000). That is extremely important information for we as parents to know so that we can properly prepare our children for adulthood.
What defines emotional intelligence?
Daniel Coleman, an American psychologist, has offered five elements that define it:
- Self-awareness. People understand their emotions, and don’t let their feelings rule them. They look at themselves honestly and know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so that they can perform better.
- Self-regulation. This is the ability to control emotions and impulses and not allow oneself to become too angry or jealous, and not make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act and are thoughtful, comfortable with change, have integrity and the ability to say no.
- Motivation. People are motivated, and are willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They are highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.
- Empathy. This is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.
- Social skills. It’s usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships (People Skills, n.d.).
Paying more attention to our children’s emotional education will bring them lifelong benefits that will ensure a happy, successful, secure future for them. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?
Other articles related to the new book:
Mary Ann Benson is a therapist, wife and mother of four.
Goleman, D. www.danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/. (n.d.) Retrieved November 21, 2015
Cherniss, C. Emotional Intelligence: What it is and why it matters. www.eiconsortium.org. April 15, 2000. Retrieved November 21, 2015
Emotional Intelligence, Developing Strong “People Skills”, www.mindtools.com. (n.d.) Retrieved November 21, 2015