What is Emotional Intelligence and Why Does it Matter?

EQ and Your Children​

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is not commonly discussed, yet it affects every facet of our lives.

By definition, it means being able to identify and understand your own emotions, understand and empathize with another person’s feelings, and respond to emotions with appropriate behaviors in a cooperative, functional, and empathetic manner. Emotional intelligence impacts emotional regulation and social relationships

Bigger Impact Than IQ

Research shows that Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient is a better predictor of how children will turn out than intelligence quotient (IQ). Academic work and relationships are both stronger in children with a higher EQ.

Emotion Coaching has been shown to improve EQ across the world, no matter the culture. What they found is that kids that were emotion coached:

  • Had higher reading and math scores by age 8 even when IQ was controlled for,
  • Demonstrated better self-regulation, including calming themselves more quickly and showing better impulse control,
  • Had fewer infectious illnesses,
  • Could better focus their attention
  • Were better at motivating themselves,
  • Could cope better with life’s ups and downs,
  • Required less discipline overall.  This has been shown to be an effective model for children who already have a range of behavioral issues, and
  • Had healthier peer relationships,

It also improves the lives of older children or even adult children.

3 Parts of the Brain

Before we understand a child's brain, we must first understand the brain's structure. Probably the best-known model for understanding the structure of the brain in relation to its evolutionary history is the triune brain theory, which was developed by Paul MacLean, an American physician and neuroscientist who was also a researcher at Yale Medical School and the National Institute of Mental Health.

MacLean’s model distinguished three different brains that appeared successively during evolution: the reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the neocortex.

Reptilian Hindbrain

The reptilian controls the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. It includes the main structures found in reptiles: the brainstem and cerebellum. The reptilian hindbrain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive.

Limbic Brain

The limbic brain records memories of behaviors that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain emerged in the first mammal. It consists of the hippocampus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain helps us make value judgments and, often unconsciously, influences our behavior.


The neocortex first assumed importance in primates and culminated in the human brain with its two large cerebral hemispheres. These hemispheres are responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinite learning abilities. The neocortex is also what has enabled human cultures to develop.

(Source: www.thebrain.mcgill.ca)

Developing the Neocortex

Developmentally speaking, kids are incapable of handling their emotions. Children work more from the reptilian hindbrain and limbic (emotional) brain initially. They feel their feelings and react without much thought for consequences. As they grow and develop, their neocortex (rational/thinking brain) develops, giving them more control over how to handle their emotions.

Emotion coaching helps you develop that neocortex more efficiently and effectively so your child can handle their emotions better. You will also be role modeling effective emotion management -- a powerful teaching tool.

Our brains are hardwired to recognize 7 different emotions. Recognizing emotions in your child is the foundation skill of emotional intelligence and emotion coaching parenting, so get familiar with them now!

  • Anger

  • Sadness

  • Fear

  • Disgust

  • Happiness

  • Surprise

  • Contempt

Next: 4 Parenting Styles

Learn more about how you can adjust your technique to be the best parent you can be.

About Amanda Linan

Amanda Linan, LCSW, CST, has been working in the field since 2010 in various capacities, which has garnered education and experience with sexuality, relationships, mental health, disabilities, substance use, and trauma. Amanda is a Certified Sex Therapist and specializes in relationships and sexuality. She is Level I, II and III trained in Gottman Method.