EQ over IQ

Here’s a quick test. Name as many emotions as you can in two minutes. Set a timer and start writing them down.

When you’re done, count up the number of emotions you could name. Now go over that list and identify how many emotions you feel on a regular basis. There are no right or wrong answers. This is just an exercise for you to see how limited – or not – your emotional vocabulary is.

How Big is your Emotional Vocabulary?

Naming emotions may be an easier task for some people than for others. Our lists are typically not very long though. An average list probably includes such emotions as happy, excited, sad, mad, angry, frustrated, depressed…but beyond that, how many other emotions do we actually feel but don’t name for one reason or another?

As we raise our children, think about helping them build their emotional vocabulary. By giving them the words they need to express the various feelings they feel helps them in many ways.

Why We Need to Teach Emotions

Studies prove that having a large EQ or EI (emotional quotient or emotional intelligence) helps people deal with their feelings rather than stuffing their feelings inside. Emotions that don’t get addressed will eventually be expressed, often in unhealthy ways. It can look like nightmares or aggressive behaviour in younger children. And anyone who keeps their emotions inside will eventually explode.

When we learn to deal with our emotions, it frees ups space and allows us to focus. Remember when we talked about attention? Unresolved emotions can be a distraction when we are trying to concentrate. Think about the last time you tried to focus at work after a fight you had with someone close to you. It’s hard.

Teaching our children about emotions also helps them to work through conflicts. When your son is angry because his sister took something of his, it would be wise for you to first help him deal with his anger. Otherwise, it would be no surprise if he ran after her with the intention of physically hurting her.

Once you have taught your child how to calm down, you can then proceed to figuring out how to deal with little sister. But dealing with sister can’t happen – not productively –  when they’re upset.

Big, Painful Emotions

Teaching our children about the big, painful emotions can be scary and difficult. But it’s important that your child knows they can come to you with their feelings and questions. There will be times when you won’t know what to say or do. And that’s okay. Your role is not to be the expert all the time. Your job is to empathize with them and be their safe place.

We’ve had several deaths in our extended family over the past few years and my husband and I have never protected our children from death. We’ve taken them to funerals and talked about how those closest to the person who’s deceased might be feeling. I truly believe this makes my child a better person. If they are able to attend a funeral for a classmate whose parent or sibling has died, they won’t be as frightened as if they had never been to a funeral. They will have learned that you don’t always have to have the right words to say. And they have learned that sadness doesn’t last forever.

Even with every day emotions, helping our child navigate their feelings and helping them learn appropriate responses to their emotions will help them cope better throughout their lives. They’ll be able to build stronger relationships with others.

Our job is to help our children tune into their emotions. We need to talk about how they’re feeling. Then we need to teach them healthy ways to deal with their feelings. It can be one of the harder jobs of parenting if you’re not used to dealing with your own emotions, but I assure you that the discomfort you feel will be worth it.

Recipe for Tool #20:


  • a parent willing to teach
  • a child
  • lots of creativity
  • camera or paper and pencil
  • pictures of people

Step 1 – Name It and Feel It

Talk about emotions. Begin by asking your child how many emotions he or she can identify. Look at pictures of people and ask your child to think about how that person must be feeling based on their facial expressions. This helps your child develop empathy. That is, a sensitivity to the way other people are feeling and realizing that others have feelings separate from their own.

You can also ask your child how they feel an emotion in their body. Where do they feel happiness? How does it feel? Where do they feel anger? Does it feel like tightness? Burning? Lightness? Tickling? Every emotion has a unique sensation in each of our bodies.

Step 2 – List and Label

Make a list of emotions. Then use a camera to take pictures of your child making various expressions that captures each emotion. Or you can have them draw a picture for each emotion, or cut out pictures from old magazines of people with those emotions.

Have your child check in with their emotions throughout the day, using the chart if necessary. Can they label how they’re feeling now? Which of the emotions that you’ve listed did that feel that day? Is there a new emotion they felt that they are ready to learn about?

Step 3 – Chart to Build Vocabulary

Find an emotions chart on Google or Pinterest. There are charts and wheels available to print out that have lots of emotions labelled, some in categories, and some not. Find one suitable for your child’s age. They’re a great tool to use when your child is feeling an emotion new to them. Take time to study the chart or wheel together and learn the names of some new and some overlooked emotions.

I find emotion wheels very fascinating. As a child, I was taught to suppress my emotions. An Emotions Wheel has been very handy for me to learn which emotions I am feeling. Did you know that frustration is related to anger? Or that discouragement is a form of fear? Knowing how emotions are related has helped me take action when I am feeling an emotion rather than wallowing in it and wishing it away.

EQ versus IQ

Psychologists tell us that high Emotional Intelligence trumps high Intelligence Quotients. It should come as no surprise that people who are emotionally intelligent tend to be happier and more at peace than people with low EQ. They also tend to have more drive, perform better at their jobs, and develop stronger leadership skills. These characteristics have the potential to take them farther in life than merely being highly intelligent. People with a high EQ can relate well with others. Their likability factor is higher than someone with low EQ and high IQ. Therefore, a high EQ will probably take them farther than their IQ.

Building a vocabulary for describing emotions will take time. But having that vocabulary is one way to start building your child’s emotional intelligence. Knowing more about their emotions will help them learn to deal with their own feelings and other people’s feelings as well. This will help them become healthier mentally and will positively influence the relationships they will build with other people. Emotional Intelligence is a trait worth developing in your child.


HB is a roller coaster father, one minute he is ecstatic about his children, the next he wonders if life will ever get any better. A long standing member of the 'I yell at my kids' club, he writes with passion and an analytical mind. Dissecting and separating the nuanced strategies that make a good parent great. He experiments with parenting techniques on his 3 year old so you don't have to.

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