The focus on academic success begins early on. Searching for the right school becomes a concern from the moment a child comes in to the world. Parents take great pride in their child “being smart”, convinced that they have superior intellectual abilities because they said their first words or learned how to write their name before any of their peers.
But how far does “being smart” really take us? While a high intelligence quotient is related to career success, the relationship is not all that strong. To be truly successful, emotional and social intelligence are also required. Emotional intelligence relates to the awareness of one’s own emotions as well those of others, and ties in to building relationships. Social intelligence is the ability to understand social situations and knowing what to do in that situation.
Helping children develop social and emotional intelligence may be easiest by encouraging the relatable concept of kindness. According to the VIA Institute, kindness encompasses three concepts: 1) empathy– to be able to understand another person’s circumstance and feelings, and have the capacity to see beyond your own needs and comfort; 2) social responsibility– to be able to understand your role in the ethical framework of society; and 3) moral reasoning– to be able to objectively determine right from wrong.
These three tenets of kindness can easily be incorporated in a child’s daily life. For example, encouraging them to see how their actions affect someone else, what another friend might need and how they can help, or standing up for someone or something they believe in – these are all actions that lead to emotional and social intelligence.
Children understand kindness through every day interactions with their parents. Simple acts such as holding the door for the person behind you, acknowledging when someone helps you with your bags, or giving up a seat on the train, are things children notice. Teaching children the language of kindness, helping them notice and recognize facial expressions, responding to rude behavior by letting it go, are all essential skills.
In a recent study, participants who completed an act of kindness for 10 days showed a significant difference in life satisfaction than those who didn’t. It’s also been shown that the stronger your social connections, the happier and healthier you are likely to be. In addition, those with a more developed social and emotional intelligence have been proven to be generally more successful in the workplace.
If we want our children to be well rounded, happy and successful adults, it would make more sense for us then, to pride ourselves in our children’s “kindness”, rather than their “smartness”