Parents naturally teach their kids plenty of things: how to tie a shoelace, why the sky is blue, when to smile and say "No, thank you" instead of "Yuck!" and so on. All of these are important things for your child to learn, but don't forget to add emotional intelligence to the mix. Moms and dads that do can raise stronger leaders.
What makes having an admirably high emotional quotient (EQ) as important as a solid IQ among budding entrepreneurs? Essentially, people with significant EQ scores can avoid the traps that come from lack of self-awareness and a poor understanding of others' feelings.
I'm raising my kids to appreciate and be aware of the emotions of others. This gives them a better sense of how the world works. It also stops them from living entirely for themselves or assuming that their feelings are the only ones that count.
Have you ever had a boss who didn't seem to "get" that everyone experiences emotions? He or she likely grew up with parents who failed to demonstrate empathy. That inability to connect with people on a deeply human level creates rifts between colleagues. It also makes it darn near impossible to foster a truly engaged, loyal team.
The beauty of possessing emotional intelligence as a leader is it takes the guesswork out of so many situations. When you can relate to others, you intuitively learn how to motivate them. That doesn't mean cajoling them into doing the things you want, but rather tapping into their sense of purpose.
If, like me, you want your children to be among the next generation of high-EQ leaders, prepare them for a remarkable journey by practicing these three behaviors at home:
1. Validate their feelings.
It's tough not to react when your child shows a strong emotion, such as anger or sadness. If you can step back and try to understand it rather than judge it, you can avoid emotional escalation.
When your son or daughter calms down, you can coach him or her to talk about the feeling patiently and somewhat objectively. Help your child understand that negative emotions are not a sign of weakness, but a natural response to feeling overwhelmed, hurt, or confused.
Over time, he or she will begin to conduct a similar self-assessment after experiencing strong emotions. This self-guided process is an opportunity to learn to reflect on experiences, including those that are uncomfortable to remember. Don't be surprised if you see your child improve at handling interpersonal situations as a result, a sign that your teaching has taken hold.
2. Encourage kids to read body language.
Jim Marggraff, a serial entrepreneur and inventor of the LeapPad, discusses the importance of nonverbal communication in his upcoming book How to Raise a Founder With Heart. In the book, he notes that business leaders "need to assess people quickly. The strength of someone's handshake or whether they stifle a yawn during a meeting serve as important signals when you're trying to close a deal or land a new job."
Children need to be able to read and interpret others' physical cues as well. From the way we move our eyes to the angle of our bodies, we send out clues to what's happening in our heads and hearts. Kids who can pick up these emotional hints will have an easier time making smarter social decisions in school and at home, as well as inspiring employees, clients, and investors later in life.
3. Discuss inappropriate and appropriate emotional responses.
As I said earlier, kids don't always have an adequate understanding of their emotions, which is why they can "act out" in many circumstances. Work with yours to label what they're feeling, giving them the vocabulary to better describe their sensations. Kids armed with the proper terms for their emotions can solve their problems more easily because they aren't as confused or frightened by them.
At the same time, don't accept every outburst without flinching. It's fine to set limits. For instance, you may be OK with your child angrily stomping up the stairs, but not with viciously slamming his or her bedroom door.
Talk through appropriate and inappropriate responses to the emotions your child feels. Childhood outbursts that aren't tempered by emotionally intelligent parenting could lead to executives who throw temper tantrums and lose talented employees.
You don't have to possess an extraordinary EQ right now to help your youngsters develop theirs. Aim to learn emotional intelligence together, and you'll both reap the benefits.