Emotional Intelligence

Reporter: Rohan Wenn

Ten years ago a simple test unlocked one of life's success secrets. Called the marshmallow test it was used to determine a child's emotional intelligence. Four year olds were told they'd receive an extra treat if they waited until the teacher returned, but if they wanted the marshmallow straight away they could ring a bell. It was a simple test of patience, of a child's ability to delay instant gratification. Researchers later found that those who had the ability to hold out for another marshmallow, generally grew up to become better adjusted, more popular confident and successful.

Victoria Carlton from the eq4kidz program believes emotional intelligence can be enhanced in children giving them a better chance to excel at school and in life. “Higher emotional intelligence actually leads to higher grades in school”, Victoria said.

Students from Ellenbrook Primary in Western Australia are doing a special course, designed to help them deal with their feelings. Some have learning difficulties, and as teacher Tony Shields explains, all have had behavioural problems. “They were having a lot of trouble in the playground, a lot of trouble settling into mainstream classrooms, finding it difficult to become engaged in their work”.

“I think to put our best foot forward, we all really need to understand ourselves. And I think that kids need to become motivated and they need to learn how to de-stress themselves. They are living in really difficult times and they need tools, real tools, to help with practical self-management”, Victoria said. Caitlin Wilkes is now a different child, and according to her mother Marcia that's mainly due to Victoria's eq strategies. “She didn't want to speak to anyone, she was quite rude to people, didn't want to talk about it. Was nasty defiant, rude aggressive the whole lot”, Marcia said.

Caitlin's behaviour was mostly due to her parents separation then the death of her dad. “It was quite bad physical violence. She was punching things and throwing things -- now she will just leave the room, take some time on her own, slam the door, and once she's settled herself down, she will come back and say I'm sorry I got angry”, Marcia said.“She basically has a short fuse, she gets angry and irritated very quickly. I think we've helped Caitlin to lengthen that fuse a little bit and she's now able to express her feelings”, Victoria said.

The students had trouble applying themselves in class because they couldn't handle their anger and frustrations, but Victoria says they've actually embraced the chance to talk about their feelings, and the feelings of others. “Because the kids feel so much happier and more relaxed in themselves, and they're sure about what they can do, we find it flows through to academic work”, Victoria said. Before doing the course, Year 7 student Josh Pettergrove was struggling with Grade 5 standard work. But since learning how to deal with his feelings and particularly his anger, mother Debbie says he is now thriving in school.

These are the sorts of kids who might normally slip through the cracks, but with programs like hers, Victoria believes these kids finally have a chance to flourish in school, and says all kids can benefit from developing their emotional intelligence. “There's been research linking emotional intelligence, low levels of emotional management, to depression. There's been research linking higher amounts of emotional intelligence to higher satisfaction in life, higher mental health”, Victoria said.

For more information contact:

International Centre for Excellence

9271 4200