Posted by Naomi Nessim, July 13, 2017 (last updated on November 28, 2018)
It used to be that IQ got all the airtime. But nowadays, many experts point to EQ (which stands for “emotional quotient”) as a predictor of future success—and even happiness.
What is EQ? More commonly known as ‘emotional intelligence,’ EQ describes a person’s ability govern their emotions in a healthy way. People with a high EQ can identify and manage challenging feelings, accept themselves, and empathize with others. This better equips them to foster meaningful relationships, navigate tricky situations, be compassionate, and develop clear thought patterns.
Unlike IQ, EQ is something that can be improved with practice at any age. But like most skills, it’s best to start teaching it early on. The capacity to understand and manage emotions will not only set your kids up for a fulfilling life, it will better prepare them to handle trying childhood situations. For example, at the doctor’s office when they’re sick. Distinguishing between “I’m crying because I’m scared,” or “I’m crying because it hurts” is invaluable, as is the ability to remain calm when frazzled.
How can you tell if your child is emotionally intelligent? Below are four indicators, as well as tips on how to nurture your child’s EQ every day.
1. They’re Expressive
The ability to feel (and then identify) emotions is the foundation of emotional intelligence. If your child is naturally expressive, they’re already part of the way there. They may be artistic, and enjoy drawing or writing about their life. Perhaps they have a knack for imitating facial expressions or are theatrical in how they move and speak. These are all signs that a child can either readily access their own feelings or tap into the feelings of others.
Parents and teachers are the primary sources when it comes to building a framework for understanding and managing these feelings. To do so, start talking to your children about how you experience your emotions in your day-to-day life. For instance, if someone cut you off in traffic, describe how it made you feel (likely: angry). Next, tell them how you handled the situation in a positive manner (perhaps deep breathing?). Kids watch their parents closely and pick up on healthy and unhealthy coping skills.
If your child isn’t the expressive type, help them build their emotional vocabulary. You can say things like “If a wave knocked over my sandcastle, I’d feel very upset. Does that sound right?” To encourage your child to open up even more, you may share how you felt in a similar situation.
2. They are Open-Minded
How your child responds to books, movies and shows can be a good indication of their level of open-mindedness. Are they able to explore why characters might be feeling a certain way and be compassionate towards them? Do they show curiosity about new perspectives?
Choose children’s books and movies that feature characters navigating difficult situations. Then talk to your kids about them. Spending time discussing the emotions of others is a great way to build empathy, a key component of emotional intelligence.
3. They’re Good Listeners
If your kid is the resident “problem solver” of their group of friends, it’s likely they have a high EQ. That’s because people usually only trust others with their problems if they’re confident they won’t be judged or dismissed. Emotionally intelligent kids are typically good and sympathetic listeners, known for helping their friends set things right.
How do you teach good listening? Again, modeling is key. You need to practice listening, or rather “active listening.” That doesn’t just mean putting your phone down when you’re talking to your kids. Active listening is also about improving mutual understanding. When your child is speaking, give feedback like “I can see that you are angry right now,” or “how did it make you feel when Sara did that?” Engaged, empathetic listening is an important social skill that will serve your child throughout adulthood.
4. They Pause
All children have blow ups at one time or another. But if more often than not, your kid tends to pause and reflect before responding, that’s a sign of emotional intelligence. Instead of just reacting to something, they’re processing their feelings before they express them.
To encourage this sort of pausing, applaud your child each time they remain in control (when they could have very well gone bananas). You could say “I liked the way you didn’t get angry when Madeline accidentally broke your Lego ship. You calmly showed her how to put it back together. That was a great way to deal with that. I’m impressed.”
Even if your child seems to be scoring high in the EQ arena, it’s still important to cultivate and support their emotional intelligence every day. There will always be new and challenging situations to confront, and they’ll need you to guide them through until they can stand on their own.
What has been your experience? We would love to hear any stories and tips you may have gathered along the way!