Most parents today know how to help their children achieve their highest possible marks in the classroom and on standardized tests. But fewer parents know how to nurture their children’s emotional skills, says Maurice Elias, a professor of psychology at Rutgers and author of "Emotionally Intelligent Parenting: How to Raise a Self-Disciplined, Responsible, Socially Skilled Child" and "Raising Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers: Guiding the Way for Compassionate, Committed, Courageous Adults."
Elias speaks on "Preparing Our Children for Success in School and Life: Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children in Difficult Times", Tuesday, February 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pennington School. The event is sponsored by CommonGround, a collaborative of parent associations of 12 Princeton area independent schools.
Emotional intelligence, says Elias, "refers to our ability to express emotions, to detect emotions in others, to regulate strong feelings when we have them, and to take the perspective of other people. as a set of abilities on the other side of the report card from academic skills. They are the social skills we need to manage everyday relationships and get along with people in all kinds of life
Elias earned his B.A. in psychology from Queens College in 1974, followed by a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut. Now a Middlesex County resident, he and his wife, Ellen, a homemaker, have two daughters: a senior at the University of Maryland and a preschool teacher in Perth Amboy.
Elias was born in the Bronx, the only child of a homemaker and foreman in the produce field in the Bronx Terminal Market. Elias says that by today’s standards he would give his parents a grade of B or B plus in their parenting skills. "Dealing with money pressures, life pressures, family members coming and going, my parents would lose their cool. The prevailing wisdom at that time was that parents should never take back their words because it would diminish their authority if they apologized. Today there’s a recognition of the huge emotional impact of parental words on children, a neurobiology of the effect of harsh
Elias rests his philosophy on the "24 Carat Golden Rule" – do unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children. "There’s the regular Golden Rule which is do unto others as you have other people do unto you. That’s good. But that’s the 18 Carat Golden Rule because it’s not strong enough. The idea of doing unto your children as you would have other people do unto your children reflects the idea that many parents will say things to their own children that if a neighbor were to say the same thing to their children you would want to kill them."
Elias believes that with a few rare exceptions, everyone is capable of improving his emotional intelligence level. "Everyone has social and emotional strengths and deficits. Some are harder to correct than others are and maybe they are not working, but with intervention the vast majority can be made to work better.
He also believes that emotional intelligence crosses gender lines. "You’ll find girls who are insensitive and lack social skills and very sensitive boys with big social skills."
In addition to the 24-carat Golden Rule, Elias offers these tips on how to become a more emotionally intelligent parent:
Teach your children to focus on their strengths. We live in a competitive society. Children get regular doses of downers. They don’t need more when they come home.
Make time for fun and laughter at home. Fun and laughter are on the endangered species list in many families. Interact with your kids. Play games, talk to them. Parents don’t need to hear more about discipline. They need to hear about having fun.
Communicate with your children on "a deeper, more gratifying level" and help them "navigate the intricacies of relating to others."
"We live in a time when everyone’s under pressure to use every second for productive purposes," says Elias. "Everyone has a cell phone and beeper to remind them to check their phone and a pager to remind them to check their beeper and all of a sudden, parents have become available to everyone in the world except to their children, and it’s to their detriment."
"Preparing Our Children for Success in School and Life:
Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children in Difficult Times," Maurice
Elias. Tuesday, February 15, 7:30 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 7). The
Pennington School, 112 West Delaware Avenue, Pennington, 609-737-6128.