The concept of emotional intelligence is a relatively newly defined subject. While the label is new, the combined concepts have been around since early man started recording stories and folk tales.
Look at the example of Aesop’s tale of the mouse and the lion. Aesop, the Greek storyteller, was born around 620 BCE. The story has a small, timid mouse that runs across a sleeping lion’s nose. The lion prepares to kill and eat the mouse. However, she encourages the lion to spare her.
“Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.” In the end, she pulls a painful thorn from the lion’s paw.
For educators and therapists, emotional intelligence can be developed and nurtured in many ways by teachers and parents.
Dr. Michael Stoll, an assistant professor of education at William Jewell College, teaches an introductory class on diverse learners.
“Part of that class is on different types of development,” he explained. “First, what does physical development look like. Then it’s social and emotional. We talk about what is typical and what is not.”
Stoll said students taking his class are interested in working with young people as teachers, coaches and counselors.
“I tell them that rule No. 1 is to know your students,” he said. “I want them to get to know the kids as individuals with their own needs learningwise as well as what they may have as far as emotional and social needs.”
Stoll praises his college students as being more attuned to this concept.
“There’s more discussion in society in general when it comes to emotions and emotional development,” he said. “Schools are putting more emphasis on it. As a teacher, you are a role model. It’s not just about running the classroom because those old behaviorist techniques no longer work.”
Stoll said emotional intelligence is just like IQ, which can grow with time and development. Educators can bring changes to the classroom, he said.
“While we can’t alter genetics and physical development, teachers can affect environment,” he said. “We can make students better at the things that are in the classroom. We can have an affect over the child’s own choices and help shape good strategies.”
Stoll used the example of a first grade teacher he has seen.
“First thing in the morning, the teacher and her kids sit and talk about how they are feeling,” he said. “While the point of the exercise is not to fix everything, there’s a way for the teacher to take the temperature of her students. I really think this is why you see meditation and breathing lessons part of the day.”
Marc Dipoto, licensed professional counselor of Dipoto Counseling Group with offices in Liberty and Gladstone, said it is not odd to have someone who has emotional intelligence below his or her chronological age.
“Part of that assessment is observation,” he said. “Their emotional reaction may be extreme with tears or a complete shutdown rather than processing the situation. Most kids observe their peers and take cues as to what is the established normal. Some kids don’t see the social cues. They struggle reading facial expressions or physical body language.”
Dipoto agrees that some children are innate in their emotional and social intelligence. However, like Stoll, Dipoto believes social and emotional intelligence can be learned.
“But it can be slow and challenging,” he said. “Schools are executing groups such as a game group or lunch bunch to help out with situations. Kids can then work with the school counselor.”
Dipoto also suggests parents can help out on those evenings, weekends and other times when the child is not receiving counseling.
“As a parent, you can watch TV with your child. Ask your child how a character might feel. Keep those mental pathways open,” he said. “We just have to work harder for a child that needs to grow in emotional and social intelligence. For one child who has more emotional and social intelligence, it takes five or 10 times to get a point across while the other needs 50 to 100 times. It’s about being more committed and repetitious while not getting frustrated and angry. It all becomes teachable moments.”
Dipoto said parents also need to know if their children are dealing with spectrum disorders or attention deficit disorder.
“If a child is blowing past social cues, as a parent, don’t say, ‘You should know better,’” he said. “As a parent, think about what do you think they missed? We are constantly developing. Parents and others can find online tools, too. It’s about being proactive.”