Emotional Intelligence


The word conscience alone is enough to put a three year-old child to sleep. Do you agree?

Because … For many children (and us too!), the word conscience is a biiig word.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience than me, but I haven’t met a three year-old yet who has ever named their family dog, Conscience.

And I haven’t met many adults (including me in the past) who can clearly explain what a conscience is. Especially in a way that most three year-old children can easily relate to.

What is a conscience to a three-year old kid?

In order for me to understand what a word means, I often start by researching its meaning(s) in the dictionary.

Call my old-fashioned, but I like looking at various meanings across various cultures too. It’s what I call, getting a broader perspective.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

In the English and French languages, the word conscience comes from the prefix com (meaning with or thoroughly) and the word scire (meaning to know or knowledge).

What this means is: in the English and French cultures, a conscience seems to be that knowledge thing, that thing we know.

Like me, you are now perhaps wondering,

“But what is that thing? And what does it do exactly?”

Ahhh! Some of us might tend to say that our conscience is that thing telling us what is right and what is wrong. In that context, a conscience is that thing asking us to do the right thing, no matter what.

However, in some academic circles, I have heard that conscience is the ability to know one’s self. “Ouf!” as the French say. That’s a tall order for anyone, even a three-year old, do you agree?

Which brings me to the following question: Though these various meanings are great on the surface, how can they relate exactly to the way a three year-old thinks?

Yes, there are many studies and experts in the field who are telling us that a child understands right and wrong by the age of two.

Well, I guess I am not that average child, because I grew up in house where right or wrong is mostly determined based on someone’s moods and circumstances. In other words, my parents’ moral compass seem to have more to do with what they personally had to gain from a situation.

Maybe that explains my fascination to this day with what a conscience is and what it does for us.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon the word conscience while studying Chinese mandarin. And what I have discovered is fascinating!

In Chinese mandarin, a conscience is called liangxin (良心)。
The word xin (心) means heart. That symbol does look like a heart, right?
The word liang (良) means valiant, strong, pure, good. This symbol is strongly associated to a warrior’s character.
Therefore, in the Chinese language,

A conscience is a valiant warrior upholding the good of our hearts. 

In light of this, here’s my suggestion to you.

Next time you meet a three year-old child, explain to them that their conscience is this valiant warrior within upholding the good of our hearts. We all have one. And it works for all of us.

I trust that you have enjoyed reading this article. I’d love to know your thoughts. Please drop a comment below or contact me directly at

Your EQ coach,

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Photo by Michael Mims on Unsplash