On a daily basis, I bet your teen goes to school and learns about subjects like math, science, history, and more. Not only do teens increase their knowledge in those subjects, but teens also may learn skills in areas. Areas such as physical education, art, music, computers, and a variety of electives. When your teen attends these lessons, they are becoming more intelligent and informed. Yet, our teens are only exercising part of their intelligence when they go to school.
In 1983, a psychologist by the name of Howard Gardner suggested that there are actually eight major types of intelligence. Coining the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner proposed that the types of intelligence included: visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, musical, kinesthetic, and naturalistic.
Types of Intelligence Explained
Refers to individuals who are strong in areas that require being apt at visualizing things, such as maps, charts, and images. According to Gardner, those with strong visual-spatial intelligence tend to enjoy reading and writing, are good at puzzles, and recognize patterns. This makes those individuals a good candidate for career paths in architecture, art, and engineering.
These are individuals who are skilled in using words, both in writing and speaking. Those with strong linguistic-verbal intelligence tend to remember written and spoken information. They enjoy reading and writing, thrive in debates and giving speeches, and more. Suggested occupations for these individuals include writers, lawyers, and teachers.
This realm of intelligence encapsulates those that are strong with numbers and patterns. These individuals are excellent at problem-solving and complex computations. Scientists, mathematicians, computer programmers, and engineers are strong in this area.
Those with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence have strengths in physical movement, motor control, and hand-eye coordination. Usually individuals who become dancers, athletes, builders, actors, and more. These individuals enjoy creating with their hands and remember by doing rather than hearing or seeing.
This type of intelligence may not need much explaining. But in short those with strong musical intelligence are good at rhythms, sounds, and patterns. This tends to draw these individuals to singing and playing instruments. Further leading to careers in music, composing, singing, and conducting.
Refers to intelligence in understanding and interacting with other people, leading to aptitudes in reading emotions, motivations, and desires. These individuals show strong verbal communication skills, resolve conflict in groups, and are able to see situations from varying perspectives. Psychologists, philosophers, counselors, and politicians are some of the individuals that generally have strong interpersonal intelligence.
Is characterized by having a strong sense of their own emotions and are skilled at self-reflection. These individuals are known to be daydreamers and are drawn to analyzing and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Those with strong intrapersonal intelligence tend to become philosophers, writers, theorists, and scientists.
This type of intelligence is known for its strengths in finding patterns and relationships to nature. Individuals with strong naturalistic intelligence are often drawn to botany, biology, camping, hiking, and spending time outdoors. These individuals tend to cultivate careers in biology, conservation, gardening, and farming
Criticisms of the Theory
While many psychologists and educators are opposed to Gardner’s theory, stating that it is too broad and focused on talents, abilities, and personality traits. This theory proposes some important considerations.
Although Gardner insists that the theory of multiple intelligences must not be confused with learning styles, I can see how it gives that impression. I disagree with the notion that individuals are prone to certain types of intelligence over others. To me, Gardner’s theory suggests that intelligence is a fixed attribute. That individuals are intelligent in some areas and less intelligent in others.
Fixed Mindset Vs. Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset is one that views abilities, strengths, and talents as something that one is born with. Those with a fixed mindset do not view intelligence as something that can be improved over time. Having a fixed mindset can hinder ones growth in learning new things, because why try something they are not good at? Fixed mindsets might be averse to attempting things that they might not be perfect at right away.
A growth mindset believes that intelligence and strengths are something that can be built. Key differences between a fixed and a growth mindset is how they view mistakes. Fixed mindsets view mistakes as bad and as something to be avoided. A growth mindset believes that mistakes are necessary for getting better at a skill.
Back to Gardner’s Theory
The reason I mention these different mindsets goes directly back to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. While the language used in his theory suggests that intelligence is fixed, I believe his theory his helpful when viewed with a growth mindset.
Rather than seeing intelligence as broken up into various categories in which one has innate strengths in a certain realm, I truly believe that balance is the key to everything. I view intelligence of all types as being attainable for all individuals and that gaining skills in all categories is essential for optimal wellbeing.
What is Teen Education Missing?
The title of this article has the word emotional intelligence in it and I bet you are wondering where that comes in so here it is!
In school, our teens are getting more practice in some realms of intelligence and I think there are two very crucial types that are left out. The basic school subjects of math, science, English, history, physical education, and even electives like music and art account for visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, and naturalistic intelligence.
Interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence are the two areas that are most neglected. While interacting with peers in the classroom helps them practice interpersonal skills, I strongly feel that teenagers need more education on how to strengthen these types of intelligence. The ability to have empathy, relate to others, communicate effectively, and tune inwardly to feelings and needs encompass emotional intelligence.
Without emotional intelligence, teens are subject to becoming just another cog in the wheel of our educational system that cares more about grades, test scores, and performance than internal experiences. This leads to increased anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and stress as teens are forced to suppress their emotions to meet academic standards. So, these mental health problems become a hindrance to academic performance.
Do Not Think About a Purple Elephant!
For the next 2 minutes whatever you do, do not think about a purple elephant!
Let me guess, all you can think about is that purple elephant.
That’s what happens the more we suppress and ignore our feelings.
When teens experience anxiety, depression, and stress, the more they try to distract from those feelings so that they can do school work, the stronger those feelings become. Suddenly, not only are they thinking about the purple elephant, they are thinking about how they “shouldn’t” be thinking about the purple elephant, and then they are not only stressed, but they are stressed about being stressed. Sounds exhausting doesn’t it?!
Sure, your teen is still performing well in school, but a lot of teens are fighting a silent battle with their emotions. Regardless of what their report card says.
So How Does Emotional Intelligence Help?
By increasing a teen’s interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, they become more aware of the presence of negative feelings. Instead of trying not to think about a purple elephant, they learn to acknowledge and even notice all aspects of the purple elephant.
Is the elephant solid purple or does it have stripes or polk a dots? Or is it rough, soft, fuzzy, prickly, or slimy? Heavy or light? Hot or cold? Is it actually an elephant or is it a tiger?
You may think that paying attention to the elephant (or emotions) closely would make them worse. But as demonstrated in the purple elephant exercise, the more we try not to think or experience something, it becomes all we are consumed with. It’s like trying to push a beach ball under water. The more pressure you hold it under with, the more force the water will shoot it up into the air with.
As a mental health professional, I believe teens would fair much better in all realms of life if schools incorporated emotional awareness skills into the everyday curriculum. By increasing emotional awareness and interpersonal skills focused on communicating thoughts, feelings, and experiences, teens will have more mental space for taking in the information that is taught in their core school subjects.
Changing a System
Although there are schools around the country who have begun to incorporate mindfulness into their curriculum, I find that we still have a long way to go. Not only that, but it seems that mindfulness and emotional education is more prominent in elementary education. Not so much with teens. But it’s definitely not too late for teens!
It is incredibly difficult to change the educational system. That’s a massive task! So let’s focus on how you can help your teen exercise their emotional intelligence!
How Can You Exercise Your Teens Emotional Intelligence?
While we wait for emotional intelligence to make its way into the everyday curriculum, you have the power to make a difference for your teen.
Name Their Feelings
Allow your teen to express their full range of emotions and try to remain calm and supportive. Instead of trying to change your teen’s emotions by saying things like “it’s going to be okay” or “well maybe if you didn’t do XYZ, then this wouldn’t have happened?” try helping them increase their emotional vocabulary. Use feeling words to reflect what they are expressing such as hurt, disappointment, frustration, loneliness, nervousness, heartbreak, etc. You don’t have to know the exact right feeling word to try this. If you’re completely off base, your teen will tell you. You can gather clues to how they are feeling by reading their facial expression, body language, and paying attention to what they are stating.
A major component of my work with teens in counseling is helping them improve their emotional intelligence. I do this by using a feelings wheel to increase their knowledge of different feeling words. The more terms a teen has to label their emotions with, the more awareness they can have over the tiny facets that make up each feeling. I approach learning about emotions similarly to learning a foreign language. Not only do we build emotional language, but we study feelings like they are a science experiment. What color, texture, temperature, size, weight, and appearance of the feeling? Lastly, I provide space for teens to experience the feeling; sit in it, and endure it without pressure to change it.
If teens today do not get enough education about emotions, then we as their parents definitely did not. It was not even spoken of back in our day! Chances are, you feel pretty uncomfortable with negative feelings. Because of that, when your teen expresses them, you may project your discomfort onto them. Without trying to you may dismiss, diminish, or encourage your teen to suppress their feelings. I believe that you have the very best intentions. That you don’t mean to downplay or disregard your child’s feelings. Seeking out counseling for yourself can help you learn to navigate your own unpleasant feelings with more self-compassion and understanding. The more you increase your emotional intelligence, the better you can assist your teen with this skill. As I said it is not too late for teens to learn these skills, it is not too late for you either!
Begin Therapy For Teens in Metairie, LA
Is your teen is struggling to navigate their unpleasant feelings? Discover how Therapy for Teens at Creative Counseling and Wellness can help them build the skills they need to begin showing themselves more self-compassion and understanding. As a Teen Therapist, I have both personal and professional experience with these issues and am prepared to walk this journey of self-discovery with your teen. Follow the steps below to get started.
- Reach out to me via online contact form
- Get to know more about me and my story here
- Begin navigating your unpleasant feelings!
Other Mental Health Services Offered at Creative Counseling and Wellness
At my practice I specialize in working with teens and their families. I work with a wide variety of individuals such as: LGBTQ+ Teens, Teens with Anxiety, Theater Teens, Creative/Artistic Teens, Teens Questioning Gender Identity, High Achieving Teens, Teens with Social Anxiety, and Teens Struggling with Perfectionism. My own own life and experience gives me a unique perspective that lends itself to working with teens especially. I also provide services for adult counseling. Reach out today!