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What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

This is a phrase mentioned by many people these days but what does it mean? What does it refer to?

All of us are familiar with IQ, intellectual quotient, which primarily measures ability to conceptualize, basically related to school and cultural concepts --- how smart we are in school related topics, understanding cognitive/intellectual concepts such as home, school, family, culture.

Most everyone who has gone to school has had some kind of IQ test, whether they know it or not, so that teachers can assess the level at which the student is likely to learn. And before the introduction of the concept of Emotional intelligence in 1995, most schools were guided solely by the score the child earned on their IQ test.

But EQ---what is this all about? This is the idea and concept that emotions and learning how to manage our emotions play an important part in a successful life. In being able to set goals and achieve them, whether we are 6 years old or 60. And in school as well as peer relationships and family life.

Many years ago, I worked with a school administrator who was very aware and concerned that students were not performing at their best due to anxiety and family conflicts. He was well before his time with this and in fact most of the school staff did not understand what he was referring to…this was long before Daniel Goleman expanded the concept of Emotional Intelligence.

So we have two different kinds of intelligence that are important in life-------in schools, for parents, for all of us. Intellectual and emotional intelligence. There are many ways to define emotional intelligence. One of the simplest and yet accurate is to understand that we want our children and ourselves to have a good balance of being able to think things thru, understand what is happening and to be in touch with our feelings, able to express them in a calm way, and not let feelings prevent them from achieving their goals. And to be able to be flexible ---use intellectual skills when needed and emotional skills when needed.

When dealing with your children the main role models for a child are their care-takers---likely parents and their teachers.

What would Emotional intelligence look like in schools? This would be a school that was very aware of the importance of emotional well-being for students to perform at their best. And to appreciate that some skills, like self-confidence, goal setting, and perseverance are as important as basic intellectual ability. Most of us know people who are very bright but have never been able to use that intelligence to accomplish what they wished. This is an example of a lack of emotional intelligence…how to function in the world.

Often individual teachers are very aware of this split within their students. Ideally you would want the administration to be aware of and committed to emotional growth and intelligence so that your child gets a well-balanced education.

And what would Emotional intelligence look like for parents? This can be quite challenging because the parents need to have a sense about their own emotional well-being so that they can respond to their children without over-reacting and be a great role model for the child.

The parent needs to be aware and committed to their own personal growth around being able to express their emotions in a way that the child can hear. And to be aware of and respect their child’s emotions which may seem strange or uncomfortable to them. For example, some parents are so uncomfortable about anger that if their child is angry, they just want to child to be quiet and not angry. Rather than able to ask the child, what is it you are so angry about? I can see you are terribly upset. Another example is the anxious child.

Some parents do not know how to listen to the child but want to quickly tell them all will be ok, stop worrying. Very often the parents need to some guidance of how best to respond to their child so the child can feel safe expressing themselves.

Children can be helped to learn how to express their feelings and become more emotionally intelligent. It is quite difficult for them to maintain this however if the parents are not also learning how to do this, or already know how.

You may ask, how do I help my child and myself improve our Emotional Intelligence? This is where play therapy with parents and the child can be so helpful to both the child and the whole family. This can be done with the child alone, to help the child be more aware of and release any problem feelings and, some forms of play therapy can be used with the parent as well to help them be more in touch with their feelings and release any problem feelings they are having about their child.

Feel free to contact me with any questions and/or to discuss further------about your child and/or your parenting!

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