Emotional Intelligence

“What can we change that will help our children fare better in life? What factors are at play, for example, when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ do surprisingly well? I would argue that the difference quite often lies in the abilities called here emotional intelligence, which include self-control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself…” read more.

(Taken from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.)

In graduate school, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.‘s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ was required reading. I loved the book. It was like the quiet voice of reason that cut through what seemed like a lot of unworkable and lamentable theory about how to rear children. I’d always believed that there was a direct correlation between a baby’s earliest experiences and how his life unfolded into adulthood. It was wonderful to have someone with Dr. Goleman’s expertise describe the link between emotional skills and a well-ordered life. Emotional intelligence can be taught, and the impact on the child by parents begins in the cradle. Attunement, encouragement, and approval from parents will produce children who are hopeful about life, are confident, curious, enjoy learning, understand consequences and limits–all of which lead to success in life.

Emotional intelligence falls into roughly five categories:

  • Self-awareness or knowing one’s own emotions. Being aware of what you feel as it happens. This is the foundation for emotional intelligence.
  • Handling one’s own emotions and feelings appropriately; knowing how to manage them well.
  • Self-motivation that enables one to reach a desired goal. This includes delaying gratification, working with determination, paying attention, and rejecting impulsiveness.
  • Reading emotions in others is the root of kindness and altruism and is important in any relationship.
  • Handling relationships by handling emotions in others with skill.

Those critical first years:

We actually have two minds that guide us during life: one is emotional and the other rational, one feeling and the other thinking. In a beautifully adjusted, high-functioning child, both minds work in concert with each other. Emotional intelligence can definitely be taught; its development must not be left to chance. The first four years, while the child is primarily in the home, is the critical window of opportunity for learning emotional skills.

Daniel Goleman, in chapter 12 of his book (page 193) cites a report by the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs:

“…school success is not predicted by a child’s fund of facts or a precocious ability to read so much as by emotional and social measures: being self-assured and interested; knowing what kind of behavior is expected and how to rein in the impulse to misbehave; being able to wait, to follow directions, and to turn to teachers for help; and expressing needs while getting along with other children.

Almost all children who do poorly in school, says the report, lack one or more of these elements of emotional intelligence…”

The report goes on to cite 7 skills that are critical to success in school:

1. Confidence. A sense of control and mastery of one’s body, behavior, and world. This is the child’s sense that he is more likely than not to succeed at what he undertakes and that adults will be helpful.

2. Curiosity. The sense that finding out about things is positive and leads to pleasure.

3. Intentionality. The wish and capacity to have an impact and to act upon that with persistence. This is related to a sense of competence, of being effective.

4. Self-control. The ability to modulate and control one’s own actions in age-appropriate ways; a sense of inner control.

5. Relatedness. The ability to engage with others based on the sense of being understood by and understanding others.

6. Capacity to communicate. The wish and ability to verbally exchange ideas, feelings, and concepts with others. This is related to a sense of trust in others and of pleasure in engaging with others, including adults.

7. Cooperativeness. The ability to balance one’s own needs with those of others in a group activity.

“Whether or not a child arrives at school on the first day of kindergarten with these capabilities depends greatly on how much her parents … have given her the kind of care that amounts to a “Heart Start,” the emotional equivalent to the Head Start programs.” (page 194)

For a chart and basic explanation of areas in the brain involved in thought and emotion, click here.

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