Theoretical Background
and Support

Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and Emotion Coaching - Part 2

What is Emotional Intelligence and why it is important?

The term “emotional intelligence" was first thought to be used in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey of Harvard. For many years, it was thought that a person's intelligence (IQ or intelligence quotient) determined how people succeeded in life. Schools used IQ tests to choose children for gifted programs and some companies even used IQ scores when hiring. In the last ten years, researchers have found that IQ isn't the only predictor of a person's success. They are now looking at emotional intelligence (EI) as another determinant of a person's success in life.
"Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. It includes knowing what your feelings are and using your feelings to make good decisions in life. It's being able to manage distressing moods well and control impulses. Its being motivated and remaining hopeful and optimistic when you have setbacks in working toward goals. Its empathy; knowing what the people around you are feeling. And it's social skill—getting along well with other people, managing emotions in relationships, being able to persuade or lead others," (O'Neil, 1996, p. 6).
Emotional intelligence was truly popularized in 1995 when psychologist Daniel Goleman wrote his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The importance of EI even reached the White House.  President told reporters “I’ll tell you what is a great book… this Emotional Intelligence. It’s a very interesting book. I love it.  Hillary have it to me."   

The importance of emotional intelligence begins with its implications for child rearing and education, but extends into most areas of adulthood success. According to Saphiro, studies show that the same EI skills that result in your child being perceived as an enthusiastic learner by his teacher, or being liked by his friends on the playground, will also help him twenty years from now on his job or in his marriage. The same social skills and patterns of interpersonal interaction that a child displays will often continue into adult life.  If children with poor “people skills" are not coached and guided to develop these skills, we continue to run the risk of educating children on “political correctness" 

Emotional, or social intelligence, involves at least five types of skills:

  • Self-awareness is a person's ability to understand and be aware of their feelings and moods. Self-awareness helps a person keep an eye on their thoughts and emotions so they can better understand why they feel a particular way.
  • Managing emotions this skill helps people display their emotions in socially appropriate ways. It helps one control anger, sadness, and fear.
  • Motivation helps a person use their emotions to reach their goals. It helps them hold back their impulses and delay gratification to reach these goals.
  • Empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels. It is different from feeling sorry for someone. It is feeling like "walking in their shoes."
  • Social skills are dealing with others in social situations. It is the ability to carry on a conversation and deal with other's emotions. It is being socially competent.

Both types of intelligence are important but in different ways. The IQ contributes about 20% to the factors that determine life accomplishments (O'Neil, 1996). That leaves about 80% for everything else. Research has shown that emotional intelligence can make a difference in life's successes (O'Neil, 1996). For example, boys in the second grade who are impulsive and always getting into trouble are six to eight times more likely than other children to be violent in their teens and commit crimes. Sixth grade girls who confuse feelings of boredom and anger with hunger are the ones most likely to have eating disorders when they become teenagers. These children are unaware of how they are feeling and what it's called. So if a person doesn't have these skills, he or she can get into trouble, especially as a child transitions into adulthood. If a person does have these abilities or emotional intelligence, they can help one throughout life. These abilities affect everything from success in marriage to how well one does on the job. Emotional skills also help a person academically. Such skills as delaying satisfaction or enjoyment when searching for long-term goals are helpful to children academically (O'Neil, 1996). Children who can stick with tasks and finish homework or assignments do much better later in life than those children who are easily distracted and go off to do something else.

Next Page: Emotional Intelligence is Learned >