Your child has just perfected his ABCs and 123s, and you couldn’t be more proud for what he and you have accomplished. However, there is one crucial aspect to child development that is sometimes overlooked but could determine your child’s future success.
Emotional Intelligence or “EQ” according to J. Mayer and P. Salovey in their book Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, and to reflectively regulate it1.
Simply put, EQ is the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others and determines how you react appropriately to them. This includes a person’s ability to handle conflicts, negotiate, and communicate.
In his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ2, psychologist Daniel Goleman points out that a higher IQ doesn’t automatically guarantee a person’s success. EQ is what determines a person’s chances of moving up the ladder in a workplace where IQ and technical knowledge are pretty much the same.
A person’s ability to relate well with others, manage misunderstandings, lead with empathy, handle negotiations, and solve problems collaboratively determine his success in school and in the workplace.
Developing your child’s EQ prepares him for the future
Honing your child’s socio-emotional skills early in life can determine his ability to establish successful relationships and make sound judgments later in life.
A study by Dr. Damon Jones published by the American Public Health Association3 found that kindergarten children who showed a certain level of emotional intelligence and are thus able to share, resolve conflict, listen, express his or her emotions and understand that of others are more likely to have graduated college and have a full-time job by age 25.
Helping your child nurture his ability to relate well with others and understand how he’s feeling as well as how others are feeling can spell out success or problems in the future.
So it’s important for parents to understand that as much as we’d like to invest on academic intelligence because we understand its importance, we also have to realize that to prepare our precious ones for the realities of the world outside, we have to nurture their EQ for well-rounded development.
What spells the difference when it comes to failing or succeeding at raising an emotionally intelligent child?
With the day to day demands at work and at home it’s easy to dismiss our crying child as just a baby throwing a fit, but what we fail to realize is that these outbursts and outpouring of strong emotions could be a chance for us to nurture and develop our little one’s EQ.
Developing our child’s EQ begins with your guidance at home, especially in these situations when emotions run high and your child still does not know how to handle them. Dr. John Gottman et. al in their book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; The Heart of Parenting lists steps to help parents deal with children’s emotional outbursts, teach their child to understand their emotions, and in turn develop their kids’ EQ.4
Dr. Gottman advises parents to:
- Become aware of the child’s emotions
- Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
- Listen empathically, validating the child’s feelings
- Help the child find words to identify how the child’s feeling
- Set limits while exploring solutions to the problems at hand
This means that every time our little one displays outbursts, we must listen and pay attention to his feelings. Recognize that he might be too young to understand how he’s feeling and that’s why he needs your guidance to process it.
You need to let your child know that it’s normal to be angry, for example, and let him experience this emotion instead of suppressing it or punishing him for crying or dismissing his anger as something petty. Stay with him while he cries.
At first you might seem like the Laissez-Faire parent recognizing the negative emotion and empathizing with him, but the difference lies in guiding your child with what to do with his negative emotions. We have to show our children that it’s possible to deal with it, and the first step is acknowledging it, and then moving on.
Practicing this at home allows your child to understand his feelings, control his emotions, and be aware of other’s emotions as well, which is the beginning of EQ development.
Proper nutrition to support EQ and IQ
Aside from providing emotional support and exposing them to activities to enhance their EQ and IQ, you can further encourage your child’s development through optimum nutrition.
A study by the University of Illinois5 found that a combination of prebiotics and milk fat globule membrane or MFGM (a nutrient-rich component that naturally occurs in mammalian milk) on top of DHA can advance neurodevelopment.