Why is it that some kids grow up to be successful, fulfilled adults in challenging careers and healthy relationships while other kids from similar backgrounds and academic performance struggle mightily as adults? A family or a school that focuses solely upon an academic education produces children who are ill-equipped for the future. We must do much more than feed the mind. An emerging new field called Social and Emotional Learning synthesizes the nature of biology, emotions, and intelligence and their relation to happiness and success. A child who has been provided with significant social and emotional learning will find that their emotional intelligence (or EQ) is strengthened, giving a child a big advantage in their personal and professional lives according to Robin Stern, Ph.D., writing for the NYU Child Study Center. Emotional intelligence is not a new concept but only recently have researchers studied social and emotional learning, the process by which one aquires a higher EQ. Studies show that EQ is the best predictor of a child’s future achievement. It is a better predictor of success than IQ and technical skills combined. Daniel Goleman, the leading expert in this field, wrote a landmark book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, in 1995 which I highly recommend. His research indicates that “IQ is only a minor predictor of success in life, while emotional and social skills are far better predictors of success and well-being than academic intelligence.” I am afraid many of us as parents, educators, administrators, and community leaders neglect or are simply unaware of these important findings. I want to do my part in this community by teaching, training, and equipping kids and teens with these important emotional and social skills Goleman writes about. Let’s all do a re-boot and focus on what matters most rather than being sucked into the ever-increasing competition of academics where only grades and academic intelligence matter.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that “risky” teen behaviors have reached record lows. The CDC surveyed 14,000 Ninth to 12th-graders which it does every two years since 1991. In 2007 smoking tobacco or marijuana, not wearing seat belts, and being sexually active neared or reached record lows. The numbers were especially encouraging when it comes to sex. For black adolescents the percentage who’d ever had sex dropped from 82% in 1991 to 66% in 2007. For white teenagers the percentage dropped from 50% in 1991 to 44% in 2007. For Hispanics the drop was one percentage point from 53% to 52%. While we consistently get bombarded with all the bad news about adolescence its encouraging to note that many parents, schools, and assorted agencies are making a difference.