Back to School and Emotional Intelligence
Children countrywide are beginning a new school year. They are excited to see their old friends, create relationships with new friends, participate in school and extracurricular activities, meet their teachers and learn (more) about mathematics, history, science, and language arts. These subject matters undoubtedly of importance in preparing our children for their careers and adult lives… but, how many of our schools are teaching our children about one of the most critical things they will ever learn: Emotional Intelligence?
“The emotional well-being of our children is more important than grades.” I strongly believe this statement and have been challenged several times on its validity. Those with traditional mindsets believe that we must excel in our studies to achieve success in “real life.” I grew up in a household where academic success as the central objective was drilled into my subconscious; despite this, if one lacks Emotional Intelligence, there will be no foundation to build a satisfying life on.
Believe it or not, Emotional Intelligence affects our personal and financial lives, our relationships, careers, health and general wellness. Currently, we live in a society where face – to – face, human interaction is decreasing as social media, texting, and technology is increasing in popularity. The world around us is moving at a rapid pace, and it has conditioned for instant gratification.
In recent times, I have observed (with more than a little concern) 2 year – old children using smartphones and tablets, while not engaging in any real interaction with their own parents, let alone other people. The dopamine technology gives us is borderline (and can be) addictive; without it, some of us lose our proverbial religion. I lived through and remember the times of dialup Internet connections; the ones which rendered the landline unusable. Think about how a children ad even adults behave now when she/he can’t access the Internet.
I am not against technology or social media. In fact, I’m an avid user of both. I am an adult, and a parent, however. As adults and parents, we need to set the example and be able to teach our children how to communicate, enunciate their feelings, learn what triggers their negative emotions, and respect the reality that there is more than one way for our children to think and process information. We must instill within them the attributes of open – mindedness, compassion, empathy, consideration for others, kindness and self – assurance.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first popularized by Daniel Goleman in his book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ.” He described EQ as the ability to recognize, manage and understand our own emotions. EQ consists of being self – aware, displaying awareness of others, self – regulation, self-motivation, and empathy.
How does all this self – management help our children develop into successful, well – adjusted adults?
Being emotionally intelligent allows our children to recognize their own emotions and enables them to express negative ones in a healthy, constructive manner. High degrees of Emotional Intelligence reduce anxiety, improve relationships, boosts self – awareness, improves communication skills, increases innovation and decreases bullying. Combined, these benefits will result in our children performing better at school, excelling in their extracurricular activities, and working their way towards being contributing members of society.
Parents and teachers also need to build a foundation based on EQ. This may be difficult, because we are raised with the value systems imparted onto us by the environment, our parents, friends, religious leaders, etc., and these values often do not include EQ. These individuals and groups may have the best intentions, but their values may have the effect of limiting ourselves mentally, because the values themselves are self – limiting... sometimes without us even realizing it.
It’s crucial that we recognize the labels we and others may be ascribing to our children. For example, many children who have given some form of trouble in school tend to be labeled as “the bad child.” Other children have been called dumb, slow, unfit for college, shy, awkward, unusual, etc. All these labels have detrimental effects on a child’s mental and psychological health that can easily be carried over into adulthood.
Children need to be given the tools needed to access their inner potential. They need to be taught self – love, self – care, and as is becoming more important nowadays, self – fulfilment; the ability to be content within oneself in the absence of extraneous, material possessions. Instead of asking your daughter or son, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” ask, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
For those who are still focused primarily on academics and getting into the best colleges, consider this: my son, who received his master’s degree from Cornell University in Systems Engineering, was required to take a class on Emotional Intelligence to fulfill his degree requirements. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for our children if they start building the foundation of EQ from as early as preschool?
Being emotionally intelligent does not mean our children will live unproblematic lives, but it will grant them the opportunity to understand their emotions and be equipped with the skills necessary to work through the obstacles that are bound to confront them.
I am grateful for my higher education degrees, but truthfully, I am even more grateful for my foundation in Emotional Intelligence that allows me to constantly reach towards the best version of myself.
May everyone have a fantastic school year!