High emotional intelligence has a direct bearing on various areas of development – physical, mental and social. Therefore, it is essential for parents to raise children who possess high EQ.
By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj
A colleague of mine narrated an incident involving his daughter. Some years ago, he had moved with his wife and children to Chennai from Trivandrum where he had been staying with his parents. His daughter who was five years old then had been quite upset by this, especially because she was worried about her grandparents coping on their own. She used to wonder how her grandpa would maintain the garden without her help and how her grandma would make her bed without her assistance. Her grandparents’ comfort seemed to be the little girl’s sole concern than coping with the change herself.
I must also mention here about the attitude of a few young boys who live in our campus. They have scant respect for the rules set by the residents’ association and would play cricket in the driveways every afternoon posing a threat to themselves and others. Also, they would pay the least heed to the pleas of the sick and the elderly who felt the noise and commotion created by these boys disturbed their rest and peace.
What the little girl felt and what the young boys lacked was empathy. This quality is a key construct of emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence? Let us look at a definition and try to understand its significance.
American Psychologists Peter Salovey and John D Mayer (1997) defined it thus - "Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth."
In his best-selling book, ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ’ (1996), leading psychologist and author Daniel Goleman argued in favour of EQ stating that it is a more important measure in determining a person’s success than IQ (Intelligence Quotient). If that is the case, shouldn’t we, parents, nurture our children’s emotional intelligence? Here are the top 7 signs of high emotional intelligence and tips on how to develop them in children.
1. Emotional stability: Be it extremes of positive feelings such as love and happiness or extremes of negative feelings such as hatred and anger, those with high emotional intelligence do not exhibit them. They do not lose their emotional equilibrium. They deal with even the most difficult of situations with equanimity. They are not prone to mood swings.
How to develop it in your child: Teach your child to be calm and controlled no matter what the provocation is. Exercising control over her feelings is very essential for her emotional well-being. Help her role-play situations which will help her practise emotional control.
2. Empathy: High emotional intelligence involves stepping into the shoes of the other person and identifying with what that person feels. Being able to relate to others’ emotions will help understand individuals, their needs and issues better. Empathy is a key component of social skills and helps establish connections between people.
How to develop it in your child: Let your child learn to be compassionate. This is the first step to being empathetic. Encourage him to be able to understand what others feel and experience. Expose him to real-life situations wherein he will need to empathise.
3. Courtesy: The three magic words, please, sorry and thank you, work wonders in interpersonal relations. Those with high emotional intelligence stand out through the courtesy they extend to others. They are polite in their words and actions. They take care not to offend others.
How to develop it in your child: Ensure your child extends courtesy to those around her. Make her realise that rude or harsh behaviour will not help her in any way. Model polite behaviour yourself so that your child follows it.
4. Self-awareness: Having an understanding of the self is one of the key signs displayed by those with high emotional intelligence. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and shortcomings, and their interests and what they would rather avoid. This self-realisation helps them work on their grey areas. Also, these individuals spend time in introspection to have a better insight about themselves and their actions.
How to develop it in your child: Encourage your child to have some quiet time reflecting on his personality traits, actions, aptitude and so on. Let him draw up a list of his strengths and weaknesses, and jot down action points to work on his weaknesses. Have regular reviews with him to ensure he is proceeding on the right track.
5. Positive outlook: Those with high emotional intelligence do not harbour any ill will or hold any grudge against others. They are optimistic in their attitude and outlook. This optimism reflects in positive energy that exudes from them and spreads to those around them.
How to develop it in your child: Your child should realise that positive thoughts are essential for both good emotional as well as physical health. Let her maintain a ‘Thoughts journal’ to pen down the dominant thoughts for each day, what triggered the thoughts and what can be done to wipe away any negative thought and develop positive ones. This journal will have a cathartic effect on your child and help groom her emotional intelligence.
6. Open-mindedness: Possessing high emotional intelligence involves being open to change and open to others’ ideas. It requires having a broad outlook and approaching men and matters with an open mind. Those who possess this trait do not allow preconceived notions, meaningless prejudices or biases to influence them.
How to develop it in your child: Make your child adapt to changes around him; teach him not to be rigid as long as the change doesn’t mean compromising on values and ethics. Let him engage in discussions with his peers and even with elders in the family on happenings around him. Such conversations will broaden his outlook and perspectives.
7. Good judge of people and situations: Highly emotionally intelligent individuals handle people and circumstances well. This is quite evident in how they judge both. They do not get carried away by superficial factors to make their judgements. Neither do they allow their heart to rule their mind when they need to judge.
How to develop it in your child: Give your child tips on judging people and incidents. Having healthy debates with her on world and national leaders, top professionals in various fields and even next-door neighbours will sharpen her judgement skills. Also, discuss specific problems with her and ask her for her opinion, and encourage her to analyse the problems without being prejudiced.
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Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj