Amita blog

Author Amita Roy Shah writes: Many times, Indian American children don’t think their parents know how to relate or connect with them because they didn’t go to school in the United States. (graphic courtesy Social Edge)

Does your child have Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? Did you know that EQ is much more difficult to teach than IQ? During the common school movement in the 1800s, schools took the lead in helping all children learn subject matter that would help them become productive, working members of society. This shift significantly changed the role of what a parent is responsible for today.

Today, schools teach children academic subject matter and this contributes to their Intelligence Quotient (IQ). IQ measures a range of abilities such as visual and spatial processing, knowledge of the world, fluid reasoning, working memory, short-term memory, and quantitative reasoning. Today, we have schools, after-school programs, enrichment centers and private tutors to help children develop their IQ. However, it is much more difficult to find a class or hire a tutor for their EQ.

When students are asked what they wish they were taught in schools, many often note qualities or characteristics of EQ!( Today, parents are responsible for socializing their children into the world. This means that parents must teach their children their values, beliefs, worldviews, and EQ. Teaching EQ is difficult because it measures a person’s ability to identify emotions, evaluate how others feel, control one’s emotion, perceive how others feel, use emotions to facilitate social communication and relate to others. This requires a much more individualized and personalized approach.

I grew up in a traditional, authoritarian Indian American family. My parents immigrated here in the 1970s and were determined to make sure that their children were able to keep up with their “model minority” status and achieve the “American Dream.” They wanted to make sure that we had a quality education, and so, with many sacrifices made along the way, we moved to a neighborhood that had a reputation for having outstanding public schools.

I know this story sounds very familiar to many Indian American families today. Education has been and always will be a priority. Education is the key to individual resilience, prosperity, success, and upward economic and social mobility. We all want the best for our children and this should be a priority. However, it should not be the only priority when parenting. According to Marc Brackett, Ph.D., director of Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, “Research shows that poor EQ skills are associated with depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, aggression, drug abuse, destructive peer relationships and poor physical and psychological health.”

After having my own children and reflecting back on my childhood experiences, I strongly believe that all children need at least one adult in their lives whom they can go for their social and emotional well-being. Research supports that cognitive, social and emotional well-being are all connected. This means that when a child is going through a stressor in their lives, parents will often see a drop in grades. Unfortunately, the rates of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed in the last several years. Suicide rates have also increased in recent years ( It is the second leading cause of death among 10-34-year-olds. It’s important for parents to know that if the lines of communication are not open between parents and their children, children will not turn to their parents for support.

Children often pick up on clues as to whether or not a parent is really interested in what they have to say. Often times, parents may dismiss them when they are talking about their social lives, because it may not be a priority for them or they just don’t have the time to listen. During the school-age and adolescence years, children have a host of myriad issues they could be dealing with: a misunderstanding with a good friend, an embarrassing moment, feelings of anxiousness for a presentation, test, or performance, or feelings that they just can’t explain!

Some children won’t tell their parents because there is a cultural and/or generational gap. Many times, Indian American children don’t think their parents know how to relate or connect with them because they didn’t go to school in the United States. Some may have tried, but didn’t feel like their parents could really connect with them based on how they responded. A wonderful book on this topic is: How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk, and Talk so Your Kids Will Listen. This book provides a variety of active listening strategies so that kids will start to open up with their parents (and not feel judged), and it provides parents with an understanding of how to say things so that parents can make meaningful connections with their children.

Parents should focus on these types of “life skills” because ultimately without these, children will feel a void in their lives. They will feel like they don’t have anyone in their family who really “gets” them and knows what they are dealing with. What ends up having when they don’t have a parent on their side is that they end up going to their friends for advice.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld wrote a book on this topic, Parents Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. He notes that children today are looking to their peers for direction, values, identity, and codes of behavior. I know this was the case for me growing up, it was very much about my peers providing what they thought was their best advice on an issue or concern that I had; in other words, it was the blind leading the blind. Today, the research also supports that children need more vertical mentors in their lives (i.e., adult role models) than horizontal mentors (i.e., their peers).

Emotional Intelligence is a critical skill for personal and professional success. The face of our workforce is rapidly changing. Today many jobs are being outsourced, or they are being given to robots who can perform them. What we need in the workforce today is the ability to work with people. Robots cannot do jobs that need EQ. The researcher Daniel Goleman posits that EQ is more important than IQ. Most U.S. employers are hiring for EQ and training for IQ because it is a critical factor for both employee and company success (

Studies support this point. A study by Egon Zehnder found that individuals with strong EQs were more likely to succeed than those with higher IQs or relevant work experience. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that many executives fail in their careers because they do not have a high EQ and have trouble with interpersonal relationships and working in teams. According to a Career-Builder survey, 71 percent of employers say they value EQ over IQ. (See

Furthermore, EQ is important becomes it is a driver of success. Individuals with higher EQs are better at motivating themselves, they have a happier outlook on life, and a more positive attitude in the workplace. They are also better at working on teams, because they can empathize with their co-workers who may have a different opinion than their own. They have tremendous insight into their own capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. They know how their moods impact others around them. This also helps them with resolving conflicts at work: .

Furthermore, Emotional Intelligence becomes more important as you climb the corporate ladder. “For people in positions of power, it is even more necessary to be able to control emotions and steer difficult situations toward positive outcomes,” says Brydget Falk-Drigan, CHRO of PeapackGladstone Bank. (See

So, check in with your child today to see if they “got EQ.” Check to see if they are aware of their emotions when they are talking with you. Do they discuss how others are feeling and why? Are they able to manage their negative emotions? Do they have an understanding of why they are feeling a certain emotion based on the mind-body connection (e.g., being hungry or tired)? Do they have strategies to help themselves calm down from negative emotions? Do they understand that their mood or behavior has an impact on people? They should be aware of how their actions can either escalate or de-escalate situations.

The list goes on, but that is a good start. I have also created a new Emotional Intelligence workbook for kids to work on with their parents. See here: This will help parents who want to explore emotional intelligence concepts in an interactive way.

Parents, you can start today by helping your children identify and manage the emotions that they are feeling. Make sure you are also using active listening strategies that allow for you to become more attune to what your child is feeling. In addition, you should model emotional regulation by teaching your child the strategies you use when you get upset or frustrated. We should also model empathy and what it means to care for friends, neighbors, and the community at large.

With this type of parenting, children will be more confident with who they are and they will be more confident in their relationships with their parents and their peers. This will allow for them with to navigate difficult situations in their lives. This is KEY to developing a healthy child in our world today. With this strong foundation, IQ will naturally flourish.

As the famous columnist Ann Lander states, “It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make the successful human beings.”

(Dr. Amita Roy Shah is an author, educator, and entrepreneur. She is passionate about social, emotional, and cultural well-being of children. She is an adjunct professor at San Jose State University in the Department of Child and Adolescent Development. She is the founder of Hybrid, an online educational platform for parents, and Social Edge, a brain-based EQ program for kids. She is also the author of It’s Time for Holi! and Lights, Camera, Diwali! She has a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University and a master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University.)

Other Voices caption:

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios Nov. 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)


Other Voices:

Indian Americans Have the Power to Send Pete Buttigieg to the White House


Special to India-West

Indian American voters have an integral role to play in shaping the outcome of the 2020 Democratic primaries and nominating a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump.

I believe that candidate is Pete Buttigieg – Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Although any Democrat would be a vast improvement over Trump, Mayor Pete (as he is popularly known) is more articulate than Joe Biden, more business-friendly than Bernie Sanders, and more flexible on health care coverage options than Elizabeth Warren.

According to a 2018 report by APIA Vote and AAPI Data, only 28 percent of Indian American registered voters approve of Trump, and only 36 percent have a favorable view of the Republican Party. In 2017, a team of researchers led by Professor Karthick Ramakrishnan published a report suggesting that only 16 percent of Indian Americans voted for Trump in 2016. What these data suggest is that Indian Americans are gravitating toward Democrats.

The question for most Indian American voters is: Which Democrat to support in the primaries?

Being the mayor of a midwestern town, Buttigieg does not reside in an echo chamber like Democrats in the comfortably liberal bastions of California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Hawaii. More than his opponents, he recognizes that Middle America has been taken for granted by Democrats and that the key to regaining the White House is rebuilding trust with voters in crucial swing states, such as Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Trump would be no match for Buttigieg on a debate stage and in the court of public opinion. Prior to becoming president, Trump was a game show host and tabloid celebrity. Buttigieg was a Rhodes Scholar. Trump avoided military service in Vietnam on questionable medical grounds. Buttigieg served in Afghanistan. Trump has a history of surrounding himself with criminals and ensnaring himself in scandals. Buttigieg exudes integrity and compassion and would bring morality back to the White House.

Indeed, what drew me to Buttigieg earlier this year was his observation that Evangelical Republicans who attack immigrants and exploit the downtrodden have forgotten the essential teachings of Christianity. Trump and his Republican enablers cannot overcome this critique.

So how can Indian Americans help Buttigieg cross the finish line in the Democratic primaries?

I believe the key is for Indian Americans to support Buttigieg as a voting bloc and for other Asian-American communities to do the same. While there is significant media attention paid to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries in February, the vast majority of primary votes are cast after these early, high-profile contests. For example, 16 states are up for grabs on Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020), and according to U.S. Census Bureau data, several of these states are home to large Indian American populations: California (712,532); Texas (358,002); Virginia (131,199); Massachusetts (98,190); and North Carolina (85,074).

After Super Tuesday, a series of primaries will be held in March and April, and by the end of April, it is likely that a presumptive nominee will emerge. At this point, Indian American voters will have voted in other states where they have significant populations, including: New York (372,309); Illinois (231,720); Florida (153,968); Georgia (130,763); Pennsylvania (125,202); and Maryland (94,054).

Indian Americans pride themselves on being a successful immigrant community, but I believe our community can achieve even greater success by flexing our political muscle. If Indian Americans can achieve universal voter registration, aspire to a 100 percent voter participation rate, and gain a reputation for being the nation’s most effective political organizers, we have the power to send Pete Buttigieg to the White House and restore dignity to the Oval Office.

(Rajdeep Singh Jolly is a lawyer and political consultant in Washington, DC.)

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