EQ-Educating the Heart-The Other Kind of Smart

by Lydia Waruszynski, M.Ed

No doubt parents play a pivotal role in their children’s academic achievement. However, parents are also at the helm of shaping yet a different- and even more important- type of education: their children’s emotional intelligence, or EQ.

EQ Trumps IQ

EQ is different from conventional intelligence, or IQ. Although they exist in tandem, emotion researchers consistently say EQ is critical to achieving lifelong health, happiness and success on both a personal and professional level. EQ is the ability to identify and monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to distinguish between different emotions, and to incorporate this information into one’s thinking and behaviour in a healthy way. Emotional literacy. At the heart of it is our ability to empathize- to be able “to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes” that goes beyond what we see on the surface, to form an emotional connection and take appropriate action, if need be. EQ is the foundation of building trust in relationships and is at the root of all altruism.

Parents begin teaching emotional literacy to their kids from infancy. Before children even utter their first word or take their first step, they respond to the touch, tone of voice, facial expressions and moods of their parents. A child soon discovers a sense of “self” by what is reflected back from the parents. Parents who are able to connect with their children are aware of their own feelings and are sensitive to the emotions present in their children. When children receive empathy, not only do they know how great it feels to be heard and accepted, they also learn first-hand the value of vulnerability and emotional expression, including coping with life’s ups and downs.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” -Aristotle

The best part about EQ is that it’s never too late to learn. Seeing empathy begins with the capacity to take another’s perspective, it has as much to do with understanding as with dialogue. Following are some ways parents can hone their own abilities and help communicate empathy to their children in the everyday school of life:

• Strive to understand your child’s point of view. Show genuine concern. Be curious and supportive. Treat your child as an individual. Listen and ask yourself what it would be like to see yourself through their eyes? Children develop empathy by experiencing it from you.

• Watch your own language: are you open or critical? Tolerant or shaming? Are you teaching your child that people have feelings, and that feelings count? Or that emotions are dangerous, to be suppressed? What do you understand about your own emotions?

• How do you treat others? A waiter in a restaurant? A slow driver? A homeless person? People from other cultural backgrounds? Children learn even more about empathy when appreciation is modelled outside their usual circle of concern.

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