For decades now, well-meaning parents have focused their efforts on building and nurturing their children’s intelligence quotient (IQ), believing it to be a prerequisite to successful lives. While it is likely that a higher ability for reasoning and logical thinking is one factor in determining success, experts have in recent years suggested that a strong emotional quotient (EQ) plays an even more significant role in achieving personal significance. In a much talked-about research study by the Carnegie Institute of Technology, communication, negotiation and leadership skills (all hallmarks of a strong EQ), were identified as the main factors in the financial success of individuals. EQ or emotional intelligence is acknowledging, understanding and managing emotions – both one’s own, as well as that of others.
The good news is, an individual’s EQ can be nurtured and cultivated. Here are some ideas to get you started on building emotional intelligence in your children.
Increase Empathy and Caring
The sound moral development of a child is necessary to ensure that they have a healthy concern for others, as well as a strong sense of justice and willingness to follow social rules to ensure order and harmony within a community. To inculcate these values, engage your child via a hands-on approach, rather than merely telling them what to do.
Maintain high standards on consideration and responsible behaviour
Decide as a family your family rules and guidelines on how you will treat others – including family members, friends and figures of authority, amongst others. Find opportune moments to share with your children on how they have benefitted from someone else’s consideration, as well as praise them when they exhibit these same positive values.
Kindness is a basic yet greatly underrated value – and every child would benefit from learning to be kind to others. Often, families get absorbed in the hectic daily pace of life, and acts of kindness received can remain unacknowledged and opportunities to show kindness to others can pass by without being acted on. One way to overcome this is to schedule acts of kindness. For example, your family can set a target of ‘one act of kindness’ per month, and identify another family in your neighbourhood or circle of friends who could use encouragement or practical help, and then, meet that need. This might include offering to baby-sit for a new mother or cooking a weekly hot meal for an elderly neighbour.
Serve the community
Volunteering offers a host of benefits, including better mental and emotional well-being for the individual. Being part of an organised effort to achieve a greater good enables one to feel connected to the wider community, and recognise that they can play a significant role in it. Volunteering as a family is a good way to introduce your children to the concept of giving back to society. This offers them the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and see the hardships and challenges faced by others in society, as well as give of their time, money and skills to help others.
Harnessing the ‘Negative Emotions’
Being an emotionally healthy child includes understanding and managing their own emotions and feelings – including the negative ones that make them uncomfortable. Often, children may not have the maturity or language to express their feelings, and act out or withdraw into themselves as a result. Parents play a vital role in helping children identify their emotions and share them effectively following these steps:
- Remind yourself its ok to feel angry, sad, upset, irritated or disappointed.
- Remember that this upset feeling will not last forever. In a while, it will pass.
- Tell someone else that you trust about your feeling – explain why you feel this way. If someone has hurt your feelings, tell that person how it made you feel.
For young children, building a library of emotional language that they can draw on is useful. Cut out images from the newspapers and magazines that depict people with different facial expressions. Discuss with your child, what kind of emotion that person could be feeling and why. Then ask your child if they have ever experienced a similar emotion, and to share their experience with you. In this way, children learn from a young age that their ‘negative’ emotions are not to be ignored or buried, but can be managed successfully and with positive outcomes.
Perhaps the most powerful tool that a parent has in their arsenal is themselves – being a positive role-model for your child is an invaluable gift that you can give them. As your child watches you live out the principles and values of emotional intelligence, they will experience first-hand the benefits of high EQ, and begin to apply these ideas to their own lives.
By Judith Xavier
Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling.