Why Emotional Intelligence is important and why home is the best place to train it
By Barbara Postma
When we consider the success of our homeschooling efforts, we typically evaluate grades, postsecondary options, and job opportunities after graduation. These are good goals to strive towards, but what about EQ — their emotional quotient? Have you considered that your child’s EQ might be as important, if not MORE important, than their IQ?
First, what is EQ? EQ, or emotional intelligence, is quantified, in part, by a person’s ability to:
1. Know their emotions,
2. Manage their emotions,
3. Motivate themselves,
4. Recognize emotion in others, and
5. Handle relationships
Where IQ and personality are considered to be mostly fixed, EQ is understood to be entirely malleable. That is to say, that EQ is trainable. A student can learn to be more emotionally intelligent. And, that is a very good thing.
What the research says
Research shows just how important a high EQ is in determining a person’s success in life. For example, according to statistics on talentsmart.com, emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of your job performance. 90% of top business leaders have high EQ, and the testing showed that for every point of increased EQ, a person’s salary went up $1300. In fact, high EQ employees make, on average, $29,000 more per year than their lower EQ peers. But, money isn’t everything. From an academic standpoint, children with high EQ were tested and had better results in math and literacy tests regardless of IQ. EQ is now thought to be a greater indicator of school success than cognitive ability.
Because of this, many schools are trying to incorporate EQ training into their days. SEL programs (Social and Emotional Learning Programs) are woven into the curriculum in order to shift the focus onto the emotional and social growth of their students as well as the textbook learning. High schools are developing electives that teach EQ in order to prepare students for the stress of university and the work world. Companies also are using staff training days to integrate these skills. However, as we will see, these traits and lessons are so much easier to implement and incorporate at home than at school or the workplace.
Why is it a big deal?
Still, you might be asking: is emotional and social learning really that big of a deal? My kids seem fine. Why would we need to focus on EQ?
The findings surrounding the emotional health of children are a little frightening. Not all of our kids are doing that well. One in four children report experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. Whether it is manifesting in arguments, stomach aches, headaches, sleep problems, decreased appetite, or lack of engagement in activities, stress is an issue for our kids. And, they need us to help them learn how to manage it. They manage it by developing the emotional intelligence to respond well to both circumstantial and interpersonal stress.
Which elements of Emotional Intelligence should we be developing? There are many options, but the following list is a great place to start.
- Self-awareness — Ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are? Ask them how they are feeling?
- Personal decision-making — Assign a task or project (for example, inviting friends over for supper). Ask what their thought process is in decision making and what steps they need to consider, then let them follow through on a plan, and discuss the success or failure of that plan to learn what to do next time.
- Managing feelings — Create opportunities for them to develop self-control and to wait to react. Our brain’s rational response comes after our emotional response so it is important to learn how to control that initial impulsive, emotional reaction.
- Handling stress — Model stress control for them. Be a good example of stress management. Remember that bad behaviour is often a result of pent-up stress. Teach them to use sports, music, prayer, etc. as good outlets for their negative emotions.
- Empathy — Ask them to consider others’ experience and perspective, and instruct your child to make decisions or reactions according to what others are feeling.
- Communications — Learn how to know when to speak, what to speak, and to whom to speak. Role play at home with each other, with grandparents, with teddy bears! Watch movies and evaluate the types of interactions portrayed on the screen. Practice thoughtful conversation being mindful of both the tone and meaning of your words.
Homeschoolers have the advantage
As homeschooling families, we are at a real advantage for finding the time and opportunity to integrate EQ learning into our days. Where the public schools need to try to sprinkle SEL into their daily lessons, homeschool families can easily incorporate these conversations and lessons into everyday life. At home you have the critical one-on-one time with your child that allows you to hear how they are doing and to observe their stress reactions. You have the flexibility of time to stop and discuss a negative interaction (with siblings, with a school subject, or with negative self-talk) right in the moment. There will be many opportunities to practice empathy, communication, and personal responsibility with siblings. Your child can take risks to develop self-assurance without the pressures of competition and comparisons with other classmates. As it is, many parents homeschool in order to instill their personal morals and values into their children; EQ is merely an intentional extension of that.
Homeschooling parents feel great pressure to have children that turn out ‘okay’ after having been homeschooled. On some level we want our kids to be the smartest kids out there. But, if we are honest, being the smartest only gets you so far. If our children are not known for their social and emotional strength and their ability to manage stress and interpersonal relations, have we really succeeded? The benefits of developing a high EQ are great. Home is the best place to do it.
For more information see: “The Importance of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: Erika Brodnock at TEDxHackney” and “Emotional Intelligence – The Skills Our Students Deserve | Ronen Habib | TEDxGunnHighSchool” or, read these books: Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman and Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children, by Linda Lantieri