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Are You Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child?

Although many parents are concerned with our children's intelligence quotient (IQ), research shows that a child's emotional quotient (EQ) is just as important for that child's personal success. So what is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional quotient is your child's ability to feel, while intelligence quotient is your child's ability to think. Although the term was coined in 1990 by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, the person responsible for bringing more awareness to emotional intelligence is a science writer Daniel Goleman.

Mr Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence brought to light the importance of a child's skill of awareness, empathy and ability to manage emotions. Although there is some controversy regarding how emotional intelligence plays a role in a child's life, there is evidence of the value of emotional intelligence.

Two of the multiple intelligences of Dr. Howard Gardner are Inter and Intra personal intelligence. Inter-personal Intelligence is the ability to relate to and understand others. Intra personal Intelligence is the ability to self reflect and understand inner emotions and identify strengths and weaknesses. Emotional intelligence combines the two intelligences and helps a child to manage their feelings and emotions as well as empathize with the feelings and emotions of others.

Should we be concerned about the emotional intelligence of our children? Yes, because part of growing up to be responsible, healthy and happy individuals is the ability to show respect, cooperate and have empathy. We live in a society that inundates us with so much technology that we sometimes forget the importance of human contact and relationships. Children need to be able to understand their feelings. We place so much emphasis on behavior, that we neglect the underlying feelings that create these behaviors. Misbehavior is sometimes caused by an unmet need. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, "people are motivated by their unsatisfied needs".

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs illustrates the five basic human needs:

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Belongingness and Love needs - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.

4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. Only when the lowest of the needs (#1) is met, can a person start to move up toward fulfilling the other needs. For example, if your child does not feel safe at home, your child can not be expected to perform well in school (#3-Belongingness).

We also are not aware how our moods affect our children's moods. If a parent is stressed and constantly annoyed, the child picks up on that mood and starts to behave the same way. If we do not speak to our children about their feelings, acknowledge their feelings and validate their feelings, our children will not understand how to be responsible for their own feelings and emotions.

When children have their emotional needs met, they are able to make healthy decisions in life. Some of children's emotional needs are to feel loved, safe, understood, valued, trusted, listened to, worthy, appreciated, needed, important and motivated. To find out what your child's emotional needs, think about how do you want your child to feel and how you would like to create those feelings for your child.

So how can you raise your child's emotional intelligence?

For starters with young children, as parents we can demonstrate healthy ways of expressing our own emotions.

Use the word "I" to own the feeling. Start with I feel upset when I am not heard.

Give the feeling a label for your child: "It looks like you're sad because your friend could not come over and play."

Validate your child's feelings. Listen, nod your head, use short comments to get them to continue talking. Do not criticize or yell or your child will shut down.

Make eye contact and pay attention.

As your child grows, help them to understand different emotions and why people react to certain circumstances.

Help your child to identify the following:
How am I feeling right now?
Why am I feeling this way?
How would I like to feel?

The more you help your child understand his/her emotions, the more your child will be able to control impulsive behavior and cooperate with others.

Resources

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow.htm

Emoti onal Intelligence for children ages 2-4
http://www.operationhomefront.org/downloads/Emotional_intellegence_2-4.pdf

Emotional Intelligence for children ages 5-7
http://www.operationhomefront.org/downloads/Emotional_Intellegence_5-7.pdf

Article: How Important is Emotional Intelligence?
http://www.parentssource.com/5.20.01.give.article.html

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence in Your Child
http://www.vtaide.com/png/EQ.htm

Emotional Intelligence: What is it? Who has it? How to get it?
http://www.imageryforkids.com/art_emotionalintelligence.asp

Marie M. Roker is an Academic and Personal Development Coach who helps parents and children to disover and develop their strengths, talents and natural gifts. Visit her online at http://www.successfulchild.com or http://www.smartbeecoaching.com

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