by Tammy Hart

With a majority of community leaders’ focus being on education reform and creating skilled workforces for the global economy, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the concept of Emotional Intelligence. After some research, I gained a better understanding of some easy things that I can do to help my own children succeed in social situations, as well as some insight in areas where I could improve myself.

In 1983, Howard Gardner introduced the multiple intelligence theory, which opened the door for the concept of Emotional Intelligence. Salovey and Mayer created the term Emotional Intelligence in 1990. In 1995, Daniel Goleman published the international best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Emotional Intelligence can be defined as an ability to perceive, assess, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as those of other people, including whole groups. According to Goleman, we need to place as much emphasis on teaching our children the essential skills of Emotional Intelligence as we do on more traditional measures such as IQ and GPA.

Researchers found that although students’ emotional intelligence was not directly linked to academic success, students with higher levels of emotional intelligence had more self-efficacy (self-confidence and knowledge that one can handle problems or challenges effectively). This self-efficacy enhanced their academic performance.

Coming from a middle-class family with two working parents who divorced during the time I was in grade school, and being a single working mother myself, I am very aware of the daily challenge of trying to make time for your children, and of the difficulties children can have coming from split families. We all want to be good parents and give our kids all of the time and energy we can, but let’s be realistic: sometimes there is just not enough time in a day and we often feel that we are stretched far too thin to meet their every individual need. For this reason, I agree with Emotional Growth programs that are being implemented into school systems. Children of the working class spend more time at school and/or daycare than they do at home during the school year.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t boost your child’s emotional intelligence at home. You can do simple but significant things that can impact your child’s success, especially if you perform them consistently. Handling your own emotions in a healthy manner teaches your children to react the same way. Goleman suggests the following approach to boosting your child’s Emotional Intelligence:

•  Be aware of your child’s emotions

•  Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching

•  Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings

•  Help your child to label the emotion

•  Set specific limits while exploring strategies to solve emotional problems

Being in touch with your children’s feelings doesn’t mean that you have to feel sorry for them, and it doesn’t mean that you need to cave in to them because they are feeling down. By following the guidelines above you might actually find that disciplining your children becomes easier as your relationship improves.