Sue Scheff: My Child Feels

I recently reviewed a wonderful children's book, Boom... Boom... Boom...., by Marsha Jacobson. She is also a contributor to an educational website called My Child Feels. I recently read a great article she posted about emotional intelligence on her website. Be an educated parent and take time to learn more about children's feelings today.

Does High Emotional Intelligence Predict Success?
By Marsha Jacobson
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a person’s ability to identify, organize and act on their feelings and the feelings of others in a healthy and productive way. Does increasing an individual’s emotional intelligence correlate to a higher probability of long-term personal success and happiness? There are countless examples from recent times that show the correlation to be true.

Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence” (1995) introduced the idea of emotional intelligence to professionals and laymen. It boldly claimed that in predicting personal success, EQ could be “as powerful, and at times more powerful, than IQ.” (p. 34). Much of this claim was based on previous extensive research on IQ, which found that the predictive nature of IQ on job performance and personal success was seriously falling short.

The correlations were only between 10% and 25%. John Snarey and George Vaillant conducted a longitudinal study in 1985 involving 450 boys and found that IQ had little relation to workplace and personal success. Rather, what was found to be more important in determining their success was their ability to handle frustration, control emotions, and get along with others. While they did not call these traits emotional intelligence, they are some of the central elements to the emotional intelligence construct.

John Gottman, a forerunner in the area of emotional intelligence in children, claimed, “In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.”

Beyond just academia and formally defining the concept of “emotional intelligence,” the core elements of the construct have emerged in other areas too. A great example of this from popular culture is The Secret, a book and movie by Rhonda Byrne. It believes in the inner emotional power of people. It took the English-speaking world by storm and has already been translated into 10 other languages. More than anything, this demonstrates the world’s readiness to focus on their emotions. The adult population, already saturated by self-help books, was primed and ready to accept these ideas.

It is no surprise now that workforce personnel have enthusiastically supported the investigation and understanding of EQ. Companies are including EQ assessments and training into work regimes. The increasing competitiveness in the workforce has forced those who want to get ahead to actively look for new plausible ideas and run with them. Their approach has been, “This seems to be something that may affect productivity. Lets try it.”

In the area of children and education, scepticism has been more predominant. School boards have focussed on the research showing lack of proof between emotional intelligence and success in later life. Lynn Waterhouse sums up this point of view in her article for Educational Psychologist in 2006. According to her, there exist too many conflicting constructs of EQ to make research possible and the research that has been done is too inconclusive. Many supporters are frustrated at the lack of action taken by schools because they feel that the best time to teach EQ is in childhood.

Perhaps our entire approach to emotional intelligence is wrong. We are trying to place the idea of EQ purely in the scientific world and assessing efficacy and predictability only according to the rules of science. Quantitative research is valuable whenever possible but certainly has limitations when focusing on a construct as qualitative as emotional intelligence. Is there not sufficient evidence that suggests the importance of EQ? Is there not overwhelming evidence that suggests that the lack of EQ creates many of the problems in our lives today? Perhaps we should be focussing on what isn’t working in our human experience rather than resisting the implementation of EQ into our schools.

With the rise in school violence, bullying, terrorism, suicide, job dissatisfaction and loneliness, can we afford to not teach EQ to our children? What can we possibly have to lose by teaching our children to be emotionally intelligent? What’s the worst that can happen? We will produce a generation of people more in touch with their feelings and with the feelings of others? We will produce a generation of people who are taught to be more empathic, tolerant and respectful to themselves and others?
There may be some among us who might like to live in a world like that.
Be sure to visit and learn more! Follow Marsha on Twitter @MarshaJacobson

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