Although IQ tests are widely used when measuring intelligence, emotional intelligence serves far better when it comes to predicting how successful we’ll be at school or subsequently, at our workplace.

A barely six year-old child gives a toy car to his special needs peer after noticing that no one wanted to sit next to them on the bus the day before. This gesture is indicative of a higher emotional intelligence quotient. EQ denotes a range of skills that researchers and educational experts consider to be far more important than the child’s intelligence quotient, or IQ. According to the estimate of psychologist Daniel Goleman, IQ determines our success rate in only 20 percent of the cases at the very most, whilst other strengths such as EQ, temperament, family educational level and sheer luck make up the remaining 80 percent. In other words, whilst cognitive skills such as speech comprehension, memory, logic skills and the speed of speech processing facilitate our academic achievements, they are not of much value without social-emotional skills such as motivation, perseverance, impulse control, coping mechanisms and the ability to delay gratification.

After Goleman, who was the first to use the expression ‘emotional quotient’, a vast body of research confirmed the importance of emotional intelligence and the way EQ can forecast the successfulness of our relationships and even our health and life quality. It has been shown that children with a high EQ have better academic achievements, attend school for a longer period of time and, overall, make healthier decisions (for example, are less prone to take up smoking). Teachers find that children with a higher emotional quotient are more cooperative and are better leaders within the class. A connection has also been established between lower EQ and the appearance of bullying; in fact, high EQ is more indicative of future professional success than intelligence quotient.

How can EQ be measured?

Traditional intelligence tests measure skills such as vocabulary, reading skills, memory, logic or mathematical skills. At the same time, the EQ evaluation test examines entirely different aspects of intelligence: emotional vocabulary, empathy, internal motivation and the way we regulate our emotions. As far as our EQ score is concerned – just as in the case of IQ tests – 100 is considered average, 115 is above average, yet for scores at 85 and below, one must suspect there is some issue. Naturally, many do not consider the values to be precisely determined, as anxiety and stress can disrupt performance, as cans technology and social media use, which are detrimental to the possible use of fundamental, face-to-face social and emotional skills.

The emotionally intelligent child and teen

The examples cited at the beginning of the article show that empathy is a key EQ skill, though there is more to EQ than that. The emotionally intelligent child is capable of labelling their own emotions precisely, regulating them and controlling their reactions, for example, describing their emotions instead of slamming their toys against the wall. A child with a high emotional intelligence is capable of handling more complex social situations and building sensible friendships, as they are capable of sympathizing with their peers.

As the child becomes a teen and later an adult, EQ becomes tied to internal motivation and self-regulation, determining the decisions they make and the way they mobilise their thoughts and emotions in the interest of managing stress, how they solve their problems or how they achieve their goals. For example, a teenager with high emotional intelligence is capable of managing their time, finishing their homework, preparing to answer questions in class, doing youth work and applying for university, whilst successfully managing their relationships with family and friends. The good news is that, whilst IQ is static and remains unchanged over a certain period of time (or can even decrease in old age), EQ can continuously increase, even for as long as we live. However, that requires steady learning and practise from children and adults alike.

Can EQ be taught?

A part of EQ represents innate skills, whilst the other part can be learned, such as the naming and handling of emotions or responding to the emotional needs of others. Activities (particularly drama activities or role-play with dolls) can develop empathy, particularly at the young child age. Through storytelling, children become acquainted with the world of social interaction and are capable of making sense of situations, learning the proper way to handling events and emotions and how to put situations into context. They learn how to pay attention to their own feelings and express them, getting along with other children and sharing their toys with them, as well as assuming responsibility. These are not fundamental or self-evident skills at all and require children work hard to master them. Later on, as children grow, learning moves from social skills and the expression of emotions to the assumption of social responsibility, indicating the capacity to become good members of the community. At this point, children learn that they are part of something bigger.

Like everything else, the development of high EQ begins at home.

Children can learn a lot from their parents, particularly in the early years. Physical aggression, surfacing between 2 and 5 years of age, and which is due to a lack of a satisfactory degree of linguistic expression, present us parents with a good opportunity to help them name those feelings as well as cope with them, through the power of play. Additionally, it does no harm to measure our own emotional intelligence and ask ourselves the questions: How do we react to their emotions? What do we say when they are in pain? How compassionate can we be with them? It is a good idea to slow down and examine how we handle our own feelings as well as those of our children. In most cases, we do not have to ‘fix them’, just sit down next to our child and give them space to safely experience the full scale of their emotions.

Based on an article in ‘Today’s Parent’.

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