It’s very sad, but very true. This past week, the sixth student fell from a hotel balcony in Panama City, Florida to his death, during spring break. Tragic.
What grabbed my attention about these stories of high school and college students is this. In every case, the parents said: “But he was a really good kid. A very smart kid.” I don’t doubt it. Unfortunately, these stories are sad commentaries on two realities. One, the affect of alcohol on young people. And two, the blindness of parents to the issue of emotional intelligence.
You see, I am sure every one of those kids was smart. Their IQ was high, they were savvy; no doubt their SAT scores were going to get them scholarships at Notre Dame. But there is a difference between high IQ and high EQ. The emotional intelligence issue is what we, adults, miss. A student with a high IQ and low EQ can dupe a parent (or any adult for that matter) into thinking that s/he is a mature young person, when in fact, they are still emotionally a child. They are not ready for adult responsibility, even when they seem like they are.
A highly emotionally intelligent kid is both in touch with their emotions and in control of their emotions. They are self-aware, they are able to manage their lives, they are socially aware, and they experience healthy relationships. I believe millions of kids across America have deceived their parents — and themselves — into thinking they are fully ready for adult challenges, like spring break in Florida, when in fact, they are not ready for such challenges, emotionally.
To be honest, this is also true for many adults. We can be mature intellectually (our minds are astute and we are articulate) and volitionally (our will is strong and we are able to pursue our goals), but we can be retarded emotionally. We can be terribly behind in our ability to negotiate tough life situations, to handle relationship conflict, to respond to criticism, to receive praise… or even to discipline ourselves to avoid alcohol. The fact is, we all mature at different paces and in different areas. Parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and employers of students need to take into account these different categories of maturation and lead young people appropriately. As a parent and leadership trainer, I have worked with my own kids in these areas, giving special attention to developing their EQ. My daughter Bethany is serving in three leadership roles at her university, not because she has a high IQ but a robust EQ. It’s the stuff good leaders are made of, and one we often are blind to when it comes to measuring maturity. Let’s take our blinders off.