Nurture Your Child’s Emotional Growth, Part 1

As parents, we often talk of child development as it pertains to intellectual growth. As discussed in past blog posts, there are certain things parents can do to help give their children the best possible opportunities for increased IQ and to further learning capabilities. But what about emotional growth?

Once your child is able to relax and focus, she is then in the best frame of mind to proceed with the other two areas of growth most critical to reaching his or her full potential: emotional and intellectual development.

Emotional and intellectual skills go hand-in-hand. Without healthy emotional maturity, your child cannot achieve anywhere near her full cognitive capacity. Emotional intelligence affects moral development as well. Emotionally mature children can make better use of their brains than immature children of the same age. It’s that simple.

Maturity enables a child to sit, concentrate, learn, and so much more. It is the foundation of self-motivation, self-confidence, and a sense of competence. All of those qualities are essential to making use of your child’s talents and knowledge in order to interact in a productive way with other people in the world.

The study of emotional development in infants and children is a relatively new science. It is only in the last few decades that educators have come to realize how important the emotions are to cognitive, moral, and all other areas of proficiency.

Howard Gardner was one of the first to point out that there are “multiple intelligences” beyond intellectual intelligence. Though it is intellectual intelligence, as measured by IQ, that western cultures pay the most attention to, Gardner identified seven intelligences.

The first five include:

  1. linguistic,
  2. logical-mathematical,
  3. spatial,
  4. musical, and
  5. bodily-kinesthetic.

The remaining two deal even more directly with emotional growth:

  1. interpersonal, and
  2. intrapersonal intelligences.

Since Gardner presented his work in the early 1980s, he has added additional forms of intelligence to his list.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman furthered this understanding of how interdependent our various forms of intelligence are with his book Emotional Intelligence (1995). Goleman writes: “One of psychology’s open secrets is the relative inability of grades, IQ, or SAT scores, despite their popular mystiques, to predict unerringly who will succeed in life….At best IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces.”

Goleman, along with the majority of educators, now believe that it is emotional intelligence that enables a child to make the most of his or her cognitive skills and knowledge. Goleman presented a summary of neuroscientific research to demonstrate that the prefrontal lobes of the brain, which control emotional impulses, are also where memory is established and learning takes place. He showed that if a child is emotionally immature, and, therefore, more likely to be emotionally volatile, the child’s frequent feelings of anger, upset and anxiety get in the way of his ability to learn and remember what he has learned.

Thus, guiding your child in how to develop emotionally and engage socially, in a calm and relaxed way, is important to the establishment of self-confidence and self-esteem. It is also key to helping your child feel motivated to make the best use of his or her talents and other forms of intelligence.

So how do you begin to help your child develop her emotional intelligence? We’ll cover that in my next blog post.