How can parents help improve their child’s EQ?
In his You Can Do It! Education programs for schools and homes, Professor Bernard shows teachers and parents how to talk about and teach skills like resilience, confidence and persistence.
“I think many parents just don't know what to do when their kids are upset. So they dismiss or disapprove of their emotions, or they let them run rampant,” Professor Bernard says.
Despite the challenges in doing so, Professor Bernard says focusing on EQ is becoming increasingly urgent.
“There are increasing numbers of young people at primary age and beyond that are experiencing emotional difficulties like anxiety. We have 60 percent of kids saying they worry too much. That's a big number and some of those convert into mental health disorders. The sooner we can provide children with education about emotions and negative emotions and what to do with them the better.”
One way parents can help is by teaching their child persistence.
“It's important for children, as early as possible, to know that the more effort they put into something, the more they're going to learn and the more successful they're going to be. This is something that parents can begin to teach their children at a fairly young age,” Professor Bernard says.
Examples might be encouraging a child to keep working on a puzzle or on a new skill like drawing: easy to do with under five-year-olds as they are always trying so many things.
Modelling persistence and naming emotions
Parents should also model persistence themselves and use words that help our children’s longer term emotional development.
“When parents catch their child persisting, they need to acknowledge their child not by saying ‘Good work’ but by saying, ‘I see you're trying hard. You're not giving up.’ This helps the young child begin to see a link between what they do and their success, and to see that that learning doesn't happen immediately but requires keeping at something,” says Professor Bernard.
It can also help parents when they start to see their child’s emotions as an opportunity to build stronger connections.
“Overall in terms of a child’s emotional development parents need to be aware of what their children are feeling to begin with, and be sensitive to those emotions,” he says.
If a child is angry or sad a parent might help them label this emotion, so they begin to connect feelings to named emotions. In doing so, parents start to help their children become more aware of their emotions and to talk about them: both important aids for parents who can then start coaching children to manage their behavior when they're upset.
“This is huge for children,” says Professor Bernard.
Finally, it’s vital that parents and carers develop the understanding that emotions play an important role in a child’s development.
“They serve a purpose. Kids need to experience emotions to be resilient, so if parents protect them so they never experience negative emotions that will delay their development of emotional intelligence,” he says.
That’s important given the role EQ plays in our long-term success.
Professor Bernard says if we are considering success later in life, emotional intelligence is in some ways more important than traditional IQ.
“People who are successful are not simply getting there due to their IQ,” he says.