The importance of fostering emotional intelligence in children.

In consultations with children and their families it has come under my attention that bullying or peer victimization is a very real and persistent problem in the lives of many school aged children of our communities. This fact is in accordance with global research, which shows a dramatic increase in bullying and violent behavior among school-aged children. Bullying involves the inappropriate use of power by one or more persons over another less powerful person or group and is generally an act that is repeated over time.

Bullying and anti-social behavior is of concern because of the far-reaching effects that it has on all children involved and the community at large. These effects have been well researched and documented and some of them include:

  • Low self-esteem causing bouts of serious depression and loneliness;
  • Self-isolation which robs the person of a healthy social life;
  • Difficulties in developing healthy and successful intimate relationships with the opposite sex;
  • Aggressive and anti-social behavior as adults;
  • Difficulties in work life and high rate of dropping out of a career or studies;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling) as self-medication.

It seems that the primary focus in the Westernized world thus far has been on the establishment of intellectual and learning skills. But the price of emotional illiteracy is high and taking its toll on our future.

So what is emotional intelligence (EI)?

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand and control your own thoughts and feelings, communicate them appropriately to others and have empathy with the emotions of others which enables you to interact with them on an emotional level” (de Klerk & le Roux, 2003).

EI is the skills needed for living a successful and abundant life.

The difference emotional intelligence makes (de Klerk & le Roux, 2003):

  • Improvement in children’s academic and school performance;
  • Better ability to handle upsets;
  • Ability to resist impulses, to feel responsible for their work and care about learning;
  • Become better friends, learners and sons and daughters;
  • Learn to be empathetic (taking another persons’ perspective into account), which ultimately leads to a decrease in violence and crime.
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