The New York Times Magazine had an excellent story last weekend looking at schools across the country that are trying to teach “emotional intelligence” to their students. The article reports that tens of thousands of emotional-literacy programs are running across the country.
Emotional intelligence or emotional literacy helps people understand and manage their feelings. It helps them not over-react to a situation or incorrectly interpret a situation. It teaches children to recognize where they are emotionally, calm down and analyze what their next step should be instead of just reacting.
A strong emotional IQ can also help a child learn better.
Advocates say that emotional literacy is THE missing piece in American education, but it’s hard to evaluate programs’ success because just addressing it tends to show improvement. And it’s also hard to know how to go about teaching it. Lesson plans are all over the place from scripted lessons to free-form debates more like a philosophy class.
“The theory that kids need to learn to manage their emotions in order to reach their potential grew out of the research of a pair of psychology professors — John Mayer, at the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey, at Yale. In the 1980s, Mayer and Salovey became curious about the ways in which emotions communicate information, and why some people seem more able to take advantage of those messages than others. While outlining the set of skills that defined this “emotional intelligence,” Salovey realized that it might be even more influential than he had originally suspected, affecting everything from problem solving to job satisfaction: “It was like, this is predictive!”…
“In the years since, a number of studies have supported this view. So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures. A 2011 study using data collected on 17,000 British infants followed over 50 years found that a child’s level of mental well-being correlated strongly with future success. Similar studies have found that kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at work but also to have longer marriages and to suffer less from depression and anxiety. Some evidence even shows that they will be physically healthier.”
“It may also make children smarter. Davidson notes that because social-emotional training develops the prefrontal cortex, it can also enhance academically important skills like impulse control, abstract reasoning, long-term planning and working memory. Though it’s not clear how significant this effect is, a 2011 meta-analysis found that K-12 students who received social-emotional instruction scored an average of 11 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests. A similar study found a nearly 20 percent decrease in violent or delinquent behavior.”
Many programs teach self-talk and breathing exercises to help a student calm and think before they act. The abilities to stop and calm down are huge for children.
Many programs also often teach reframing. Reframing is the ability to stop and think about an event and decide if it was really what is seemed. It teaches a person to take a logical approach, instead of emotional approach, to examining events or comments in our lives. So for example, was the class really laughing at me or were they just laughing?
Another program teaches the Mood Meter, which sounds similar to the Zones of Regulation to me. It asks kids to reflect and think critically about where they are at mood-wise and do they need to adjust. So for example red in the Mood Meter means angry and in the Zones of Regulation it means over-stimulated. So in either case the kid needs to use some skills, such as deep breathing or self-talk, to calm down.
I love these types of emotional intelligence skills, and we work on these at home within our family. We definitely have family members that over-react to things and we talk about was that an appropriate reaction? What zone are you in? How can you calm down and react in a more appropriate manner. I think for kids to be self-aware and manage their emotions are huge accomplishments and definitely something families can be working on as well as the schools. (I think it’s also good for parents too. We get stressed and over-react. I am working on managing my worry levels and positive reframing so I don’t pass that stress to my kids.)
So what do you think of emotional intelligence? Are you a believer? Do you think it should be taught at school? Do you think this would help your child? Do your work on skills like this at home?