There is a famous saying: “IQ (Intelligent Quotient) is what gets you through school, but it is EQ (Emotional Quotient) what gets you through life.” Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence is a phrase coined by Daniel Goleman concerning someone’s ability to manage their emotion. But in reality, this phrase is often used to describe someone’s attitude and behavior and how they manage their life and their relationship with other people.
My work as a guidance and counseling teacher allows me to see firsthand the declining ability of teenagers to cope in real life, to communicate and build relationship with their peers, families, and society. What they know mostly they get from the media, either from TV with all its twisted “reality shows”, movies, internet, and games, with all its stereotypes and dramas. A lot of children have difficulty differentiating between real life and made up drama. They duplicate the way the characters from the media handle their problems that might or might not applicable to real life.
Brilliant children are often expected to cram more work and finish their education much earlier than normal, giving them little to no time to interact with their peers. I’ve worked in a school with such a program where they are expected to finish the Master degree curriculum by the time they are supposed to finish high school. They are excluded from other students who take regular classes and study even on Saturday. In order to be able to follow the curriculum they study more 10 hours per day and they lived in a dorm. How will they get their life skills if the school doesn’t provide the education for them?
A lot of parents are now absent from their children’s lives and provide little to no guidance of how to manage their lives. Sometimes the life skills they provide are lacking, especially in certain neighborhood. What kind life skills will a drunken and drug abuser father teach to his children, if he gives any at all? I have a student whose father advised him to impregnate a rich girl so he could marry her, and he came from the upper class!
We need more systematic education of how to teach life skills to students. In my schools, I regularly provide scheduled classes about life skills and developmental issues for the students. It is within this work I found out that a lot of teenagers have no clue on what most of us thinks is common sense and common knowledge. In teaching them how to be a good friends, I found out that some of them wonder why it is bad to taunt someone as a “wimp” and “faggot”. Another student of mine wants to be a terrorist when he grows up because he thinks it is as cool as playing Counter Strike. Another sees nothing wrong in threatening his friends if he gets upset. In these classes, I address these issues before they become problems, and even if it does, I can always remind them of what I have taught and they understand more easily.
Perhaps what we think is cruelty and evil in the actions of some teenagers is simply because they have no idea it is wrong.
Another reason is that the decline of parental authority, especially in teenagers’ mindset. It is easier for them to run from their parents when they don’t want to listen, or attribute the parental advice as something conservative and irrelevant. In providing systematic classes about life skills in schools, not only they are forced to sit and listen, but they know that these things, are in fact, universal. The classes also serve to correct the “wrong” advice some of the parents might provide.