Emotional intelligence (EI) is a phrase which will have reached many parents’ ears. A child’s level of emotional intelligence is referred to under the term ‘emotional quotient’, which can be high, low or in-between. If a child is high in EI, it means they can recognise and name their feelings, and recognise the feelings of others around them.
Here’s a few reasons why you should be caring about this:
- Contrary to common belief, a good level of EI does not make your child weak or vulnerable. In fact, it can mean they are happy to be an individual, as they understand that we all react differently to things that happen and we can grow stronger as a result.
- Children with good EI can recognise when someone is being unkind, as they read the signals and can be fearless ‘upstanders’ (i.e. stick up for those being bullied).
- A child who can communicate their feelings can really help themselves at school. If a teacher has the benefit of knowing exactly what is going on for a student emotionally, there is less confusion, less time spent in drilling down on what is actually going on, and the teacher can focus on listening in an empathetic manner because they are not second guessing the situation.
- School can be a far less drama-laden experience for your child; if they have a good understanding of why others might be upset, they don’t need to take things so personally and will give other kids space e.g. ‘He’s not talking to me because he’s angry right now. He’s put a lot of work into that project and now he has to start again.’
- Low empathy levels or no evidence of showing empathy at all can indicate a risk for aggression and/or violence going forward.
- There is less risk of getting involved in abusive or unhealthy relationships in the future if a child develops the ability to discern whether a person has good intentions. Of course there are no guarantees, but if a child already knows what type of treatment they and others deserve, this will help them as adults to make wise choices about those they spend their time with.
- Good emotional health means communicating what’s going on for you. If your child innately understands this, they are likely to seek your support in difficult times. This can reduce the risk of bigger issues which come from ‘bottling up’ and ‘stuffing down’ their uncomfortable feelings.
If you are concerned that your child might be low on the quotient, there is good news! I quote Dr Michele Borba, an international speaker, educator and best-selling author: “Researchers say the answer to whether empathy can be cultivated is an overwhelming ‘YES’. The problem is too many adults think that bullying, cruelty, insensitivity or unkind actions are ‘just a phase’, a boy issue or an inborn temperament, and those are huge misconceptions.”