Developing Your Child’s Emotional Quotient: The Value of Emotional Intelligence

High intelligence, academic success, and intense curiosity are admirable, but happiness and success in our complicated world also depends upon well-developed social and emotional skills as well.  It is these skills which allow children to become happier, more confident, and more successful in school and in life.  Intelligence matters, but it is what you do with your intelligence which matters even more.

Emotional intelligence is sometimes referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), a term coined over a decade ago but now becoming known to be just as important as IQ.  Daniel Goleman was the first to popularize this notion in his book, Emotional Intelligence : Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1997).  Emotional intelligence involves the ability to use emotions positively and constructively.  It has also been referred to as people skills, emotional literacy and character.

There are several critical components of high emotional intelligence or high EQ.  The skills typically believed to make up emotional intelligence include:

  • Emotional Expressiveness
  • Optimism
  • Persistence & Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • Self-Control
  • Independence
  • Interpersonal Skills

Translated to a child’s perception of the world, these skills might be described with statements such as:

  • I can talk about what I am feeling
  • I am a good person
  • I am happy
  • I can control myself
  • I can deal with problems
  • I can do it
  • I can get along well with others

Most people cannot maintain all of these skills all of the time, but most families could benefit from being aware of skills which are less measurable but at least as important as other tangible signs of success.

Parents can be effective emotional coaches for their children.  By taking an active role in your child’s emotional education, you can make a significant difference in their ability to get along in life.  Expressing interest in your child’s development and unconditional love are vital, though certainly having your own strengths in emotional intelligence can be helpful.

The good news about raising EQ is that it can be nurtured and developed.  The bad news is that it does not happen overnight.  The first step is to seek out a realistic assessment of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.   Then decide to focus on one specific skill to target.  If your child doesn’t have strong feeling vocabulary, for instance, start using the language more often and making connections between events and feelings.  If your child has trouble with flexibility, for example, start working on exposing him or her to new experiences, developing more coping skills, and fostering adaptability.

Unlike a child’s IQ, which has strong genetic determination, your child’s EQ can be environmentally influenced and improved.  As with the skills of reading and math, breaking down the task into small goals will help to make the larger goal more manageable.  Practice and more practice is necessary.  And as is true for so many other parenting decisions, what you do is more influential than what you say.  Try to remember that you are a role model to your children all the time.


Sandra Wartski, PsyD

Licensed Psychologist, Silber Psychological Services
President-Elect, North Carolina Psychological Association
Member, American Psychological Association
National Register Credentialed since 1995