We hear and read a lot about emotional intelligence these days. I’m convinced it is an essential component of overall intelligence. As the father of two boys, however, I am a little unclear about what I can do to enhance, encourage and nurture this kind of intelligence. Their school doesn’t seem to be doing anything in this direction, so all inputs have to come from home. Any pointers on how we can bring up emotionally intelligent kids?
The world over, companies, organizations and nations are talking about collaboration rather than competition. In voluntary/charity work, empathy—rather than sympathy—is the effective tool. On the family and personal fronts, too, relationship-building is being recognized as the key to emotional well-being. It takes emotional intelligence to be an active and fulfilled citizen of our world.
While a high IQ has long been a sought after and much-saluted mental feature, today a high EQ is recognized as an important, even crucial, measurement of life skills. Emotional intelligence is considered essential to personal development, stable relationships and meaningful careers.
It is the interplay of our emotions and our intelligence that decides our lives. The truly intelligent are those who can absorb not just information but also knowledge and—one step beyond this—have the wisdom to use what they know, to make their lives happy, fulfilled and socially connected.
While we stress on their study habits, we need to shape children’s emotional habits, too, if they are to be complete human beings. Good emotional habits— self-awareness, optimism, considerateness, to name just a few—can be taught, giving children an edge in the application of their intellectual abilities.
Even when we wish to instil good moral and ethical standards in our children, when we want to teach them to be honest, tolerant, fair, kind, and to manage emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy, it is their emotional intelligence that needs to be kindled and honed.
While there are endless debates about whether intelligence is a genetic gift, or can be nurtured, emotional intelligence can be taught, learnt, practised and sharpened in children. Here, the school system rarely plays a role; it is the family that must impart this “education”.
The best way, of course, is by example. When children observe and experience their parents and other close family members dealing with their lives in an emotionally intelligent manner, it’s the best lesson they can have. However, there are a couple of specific ways in which you could give your kids small emotional workouts:
1) Encourage “feeling” conversations. When your child tells you about what happened at school or on the playground, get him to articulate what he felt, or what someone else in the interaction felt. This can be done as a natural part of the conversation, not as a “counselling session”.
2) Get children to listen, read and recognize people’s tones and expressions, and not just their words. Even cats and dogs have expressions—so teach your kids to observe and interpret non-verbal communication, too.
Think back to your own school days. You’ll recall the kids who topped the class may not have gone on to blaze any trails. While others, who were not necessarily the highest scorers, became successful, happy, self-actualized people. The key difference lay in emotional intelligence.
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