Tag Archives: intelligence

Why Negative Emotions Are Important To Emotional Intelligence

Here’s a fact. Humans are capable of a full spectrum of feelings. So when we avoid the less comfortable ones or minimize their importance, we in essence understand less of ourselves.

Babies exhibit mostly negative feelings, intuitively understanding that these are the ones that will get the attention they need. Not to distract us from attending to their needs, babies hold back on smiling for four or more weeks. And a cry is not a cry. Parents, in particular mothers, can identify the reason their baby is crying by subtle changes in pitch, intensity etc. almost from birth. Crying can be from physical reasons like hunger, pain or a wet diaper or from emotional reasons like loneliness and needing a hug.

When our baby smiles for the first time, we do everything we can, short of standing on our heads, to get them to smile again. This is the moment when many parents, unintentionally, begin to focus on positive displays of emotion in an effort to keep their baby happy. Now when their baby cries they will do things to make them smile, rather than focus directly on the crying. This change is subtle but important as it sets us on a path where we focus less on negative emotions and more on positive ones. Many might ask, “Why is this a problem?”

There is a generally held belief that when we focus on our child’s negative emotions, we encourage negativity and pessimism. This is simply not true. When we teach our child to accept and deal with a negative emotion we help them understand what they are feeling and why. Children (and adults) need this information to resolve problems and to learn how to deal with similar situations in their future. When children (and adults) identify their negative feelings, face them and deal with them, they will be able to put them aside and embrace their happier emotions. Ignoring, avoiding or minimizing negative feelings, gives them a power that they neither need nor deserve.

When we focus on all of our child’s feelings, we see them as whole, and they will learn to see themselves in this way too. Life provides us with challenges and adversity with high predictability. Our child’s ultimate success and happiness depends not on the challenges that she faces, but on how she faces them. When we teach our child to give negative emotions equal status to their positive counterparts, we raise their emotional intelligence and give them the tools to reach their full potential.

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What Parents Can Do To Raise Their Child’s EQ

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.

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