Karis went home to hear her parents having a muffled “discussion” in
the kitchen. When she walked in, they abruptly stopped talking. Karis
had just come from an EQ lesson at school, so she said to her parents,
“Wow, I see a lot of non-verbal cues going on between you two.” Her
parents were busted (and naturally surprised by her articulate
observation), but the encounter then led to a healthy conversation about
how families communicate with one another and with others.
Getting Comfortable with Conflict
As parents, we spend a lot of time and money trying to give our kids the
best advantages possible. But the reality is, kids who live, love, and lead
well, live in environments where they can build what is behind their
eyes—their emotional and relational brain. Our ability to embrace
negative emotion is critical to emotional safety. We have to get
comfortable embracing difficult emotions so that we can show up for
others in their pain.
EQ over IQ
Research suggests that young people today are less psychologically
prepared for the workforce than any generation in the last 75 years. (1)
Teen stress rivals that of adults. (2) The research on the power of
emotional intelligence to increase life satisfaction and academic
outcomes for kids as early as preschool and success outcomes for
business leaders is robust. (3). Google conducted a major study of its
hiring process. At the time, they were naturally hiring for the hard skills
(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). What they found
in their study, however, was that for their top employees and most
productive teams, the hard skills were coming in dead last.
Instead, the top three skills of their top employees, in order, were
emotional safety, emotional intelligence, and empathy. These soft skills
have become what many companies now prioritize for their top leaders.
(4) Mastering these so-called “soft skills” is a greater determinant for a
person’s success in life than academic achievement.
So what is emotional intelligence?
Generally speaking, it is the ability to know what it is that I’m feeling,
why I’m feeling that way, and my ability to know what another person is
feeling and why he/she feels that way. Knowing how I feel is self-
awareness. The more self-aware I am, the greater my ability to show
and be truly present for others without making their pain about me. The
more others-aware I am, the more empathetic I can be. Unlike IQ
(intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient) can grow and develop
over time. Individuals becomes more emotionally intelligent with
In today’s society, kindness and respect for others, and especially
tolerance for others’ viewpoints, have taken a back seat to impulsive,
unfiltered and hurtful comments.
Three years ago, Ironwood Academy, based in Franklin, collaborated
with national Christian child development expert, Dr. Joshua Straub, to
curate a first-of-its-kind emotional intelligence (EQ) curriculum that is
taught to all students in grades K-12.
Terry Morris, executive director of Ironwood, commented, “Our
objective is to provide an emotionally-safe environment in which
students (and parents) are given specific tools to identify and regulate
emotions and, just as importantly, to recognize and respect others’
feelings. The curriculum includes training on neurobiological concepts
regarding brain structure, development and function; healthy problem-
solving and coping skills; cognitive flexibility and language processing;
as well as teaching and practicing listening and social skills.”
Ironwood's EQ course is being used as the pilot program for a national
emotional intelligence program that will hopefully be available to all
schools. It is research-based wherein pre- and post-assessments are
conducted for positive outcomes supported by data.
Dr. Josh Straub remarked, “The EQ curriculum is at the intersection of
psychology and spirituality, providing essential life skills that are rarely
taught in schools. Ironwood is at the forefront of this movement.”
In addition to the core academic subjects, all students receive weekly
small group instruction and coaching in EQ designed to build self-
esteem, improve communication skills, and increase empathy for others.
Ironwood’s goal is to create and sustain spaces and places in which
students can learn and thrive—free from anxiety and depression.
For more information about the EQ program for schools, please visit
www.ironwoodacademy.org. To follow Dr. Straub, visit