Studies prove time and again that emotional intelligence is the single largest predictor of success. According to renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Children don’t want to play with other children who don’t know how to share or take turns. Higher emotional intelligence (emotional quotient or EQ) is positively correlated with self-awareness, empathy, and social engagement. The time we invest in helping our children develop EQ will help them communicate better, maintain stronger relationships, and strengthen their problem-solving capabilities—not only in school—but in real-life.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
The egocentric brains of very young children are naturally wired to focus on their own needs. Predominately driven by age, aptitude, and life experience, different children develop EQ at different paces. When children eventually realize that every person has their own wants and needs, the stage is set for fostering EQ.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is no accident that when we care for others, it is so often reciprocated. When people know that we care—in our hearts—they tend to care for us in-kind. Remember the words of the late Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Children
As children learn to read body language, facial expressions, and tone-of-voice, they begin to understand how emotions can affect both people and outcomes. The process of identifying specific causes for specific emotions helps children with self-regulation, strengthening their ability to choose healthy responses.
While most toddlers haven’t yet developed the language needed to articulate their feelings, social interactions during playtime, story time, and role-playing teach them to recognize—and hopefully manage—their emotions. These life experiences grant children first-hand insight into the relationship between cause-and-effect, helping them shape a more logical understanding of the world.
There are seven primary building blocks of emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize our emotions, wants, and needs.
- Self-Regulation: The ability to control the reactions to our emotions, wants, and needs.
- Self-Expression: The ability to articulate our thoughts and emotions.
- Active Listening: The ability to focus on what someone else is saying without allowing ourselves to be interrupted by our own thoughts. Canadian author Jordan Peterson wrote, “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
- Internal Motivation: The ability to think about and identify what’s causing us to feel the way we do.
- Empathy: The ability to understand and care for the emotions of other people.
- Social Skills: The ability to build healthy relationships and avoid unhealthy relationships.
Teach children about our God-given responsibility to help others, fostering the compassion and empathy to not only strengthen EQ, but to make the world around us a better place. Bring children to visit with a sick friend or relative. Older children can shovel the driveway or cut the lawn of an elderly person or shut-in. Real-life interactions foster emotional intelligence, perhaps more than any other single lesson.
Opportunities to Develop Emotional Intelligence
Children often express strong emotions. Naturally, we want to protect them from distress. Maybe we enter problem-solving mode, focusing our efforts to turning on the “happy switch” as quickly as possible. Although this may help in the short-term, it tends to sidestep children’s massive, raw feelings, slowing down the process of independently developing emotional maturity.
Instead, let’s slow down our own emotional response. Resist the temptation to solve their problems. As far as growth and development are concerned, we best support children by offering guidance, while deferring to them to take the lead. Although this approach may not yield rapid results, it will strengthen both their EQ and long-term capabilities. Ultimately, whatever they are going through is THEIR problem—THEY must learn how to fix it—all while having the confidence that dad has their back.
The Long-Term View of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important factors in predicting future success in relationships, quality of life, academics, and healthier decision-making (less likely to smoke or abuse drugs, alcohol, etc.). It influences how we make decisions, cope with stress, solve problems, and pursue goals. With today’s social media and technology driven-world, interpersonal connections happen more online and less in-person; EQ is in decline. Culturally, we just aren’t practicing the basic face-to-face social skills that are so crucial to forming genuine bonds of friendship. Luckily, there is some good news! Unlike IQ, which is relatively fixed, EQ can be learned. Fathers who develop and master EQ within themselves are better equipped to support children who do the same.
Emotionally intelligent people have developed the capacity to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of themselves… and others. Often elevated into leadership roles, folks with strong EQ have a greater propensity to make a difference and are more inclined to influence the lives of those around them. By helping children develop emotional intelligence at a young age, fathers better prepare them to enjoy success in every domain of life.
“Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”
—Proverbs 11:17 NLT
Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out takes you to a place that everyone knows but no one has ever seen: inside the human mind.
Parents, teachers, caregivers, and mental health professionals love using Feelings and Dealings to help children develop empathy.
Goleman shows the factors at work when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ do surprisingly well. Emotional intelligence can be nurtured and strengthened throughout our adulthood—with immediate benefits to our health, our relationships, and our work.
Glad, sad, silly, mad—monsters have all kinds of different feelings! In this innovative die-cut book, featuring a snazzy foil cover, you’ll try on funny masks as you walk through the wide range of moods all little monsters (and kids!) experience.
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is a groundbreaking guide to teaching children to understand and regulate their emotional world.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.