If Your Child’s Emotional IQ Were Tested, Would They Pass?

Making the Case for Emotional Safety in the Classroom

By Tiffany Meyer

It’s that time of year again. While parents shop for school supplies and new sneakers, U.S. standardized test scores are being released and analyzed under the stringent criteria of the No Child Left Behind’s raise ‘em up or shut ‘em down policies. As schools reel or jump for joy in response to their test scores, leading brain research poses a compelling question: If your child’s emotional IQ were tested, would they pass?

Leading education and brain development researchers including Daniel Goleman, Alfie Kohn, and Joseph Chilton Pierce confirm the importance of emotional intelligence in determining a person’s success in life.

But don’t throw out the algebra books yet. These researchers do not undermine the importance of today’s academic standards. Instead, using the latest in brain research, they argue that a strong emotional IQ (also known as EQ) will determine equally important skills such as problem-solving, tolerance, motivation, cooperation and relating compassionately to the world at large.

Indeed, more and more researchers, corporate trainers, and business leaders are utilizing EQ assessments and training to improve workplace production. As research continues in this area, many scholars have begun to argue the importance of integrating emotional literacy in our classrooms.

What’s Hindering EQ in Today’s Schools?

In his landmark book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman argues that the most important environmental element contributing to EQ is emotional safety. In fact, Goleman also argues that students need to feel emotionally safe to perform at their academic best.

In Words Can Hurt Forever, James Garbarino and Ellen deLara have shown, “Many schools inadvertently support and enable hostile and emotionally violent environments.”

According to Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, authors of The Compassionate Classroom and The No-Fault Classroom, the promise of reward, the threat of punishment and even grade-based comparisons are all fear-inducing. Goleman proves that such behaviors actually create a physiological reaction that shuts down a student’s reasoning capacity — putting them in fight, flight or freeze mode. In this state, students simply cannot perform.

Hart and Hodson suggest that something as simple as shifting how teachers communicate to their students can have a profound effect on their emotional safety AND in the corresponding development of their emotional IQ.

The Compassionate Classroom offers educators assessment tools to measure how emotionally nurturing their classrooms really are. The book also offers dozens of activities for teaching the simple yet powerful process called Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

Using the NVC process helps educators and students build trust, connection, compassion and empathy. Equally important, students and teachers learn to develop an emotional vocabulary, which assists them greatly in relating to the world around them.

As schools continue to push mastery of core competencies, leading researchers warn us not to forget the important element of emotional literacy. Partnered together, these skills compliment and expand our idea of essential skills to fully prepare students for the ever-changing challenges of the 21st century.

Tiffany Meyer is the past editor and a contributing writer to the NVC Quick Connect e-Newsletter, the founder of the Help Share NVC Project, past marketing director for PuddleDancer Press, founder/president of Numa Marketing, author of Writing a Results-Driven Marketing Plan: The Nonprofit’s Guide to Making Every Dollar Count, and creator of the companion online training program, Results-Driven Marketing Mastery. She has been learning and practicing NVC for more than a decade and remains committed to integrating it into her personal and professional life.