In 1995, Daniel Goleman introduced the idea of emotional intelligence (EQ). Before this, it was widely accepted that a person’s IQ was the sole contributing factor to their intelligence and that it was a genetic given, unable to be changed by life experience. Based on extensive research, Goleman showed how a person’s success in all areas of their life is influenced equally, if not more, by emotional characteristics, which combined make up their emotional intelligence. In addition, he stated that EQ could be taught and raised.

The implications of these findings on education were enormous. Sadly, after almost twenty years, our obsession with our children achieving high grades is greater than ever before, with little integration of what we know about EQ into the success equation. Many parents with very smart kids, still don’t understand why their children don’t do as well as they should in school and in other areas of their lives.

Lets look at a hypothetical situation. If Child A and Child B have equivalent IQs but Child B is able to persevere with a challenging task more easily than child A, who will do better at that task? Child B would be the one that most, if not all would pick and yet somehow teaching children how to be more persevering is not a part of the school curriculum. Perseverance is only one of the traits that research has shown to contribute to a child’s EQ. When combined with other characteristics like good communication skills, strong empathy and high self-esteem, the potential impact of EQ on our child’s success is enormous.

In a perfect world teaching EQ should be a part of the school curriculum, having equal status to subjects like mathematics, language and science. In the absence of this scenario, the question that remains is this: what can we, as parents, do to increase our child’s EQ?

I have some starting suggestions that require little effort from parents other than changing their perspective on the importance of EQ.

  • Make sure that the ratio of factual learning and social learning is balanced. Much of EQ growth takes place in a social environment. Extra math when your child is doing fine in math is not necessary unless it is something that they really want to do. Playing with friends is equally important.
  • Don’t over-program your child. Children need time for relaxation, self-reflection and self-discovery. These times are crucial to the healthy development of EQ.

  • Try to see success in all areas of your child’s life and not only in school. Feel good in the knowledge that academic achievement will benefit from your child’s social and emotional success.

As a mother of four, I understand the pressure that parents feel. We all want our children to have the best lives but sometimes we have to question preexisting beliefs to make that happen.