Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

The Power of Emotion Coaching

Dr John Gottman, one of the founders of The Gottman Institute, published a book titled “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.” On their website there is a helpful article titled “Introduction to Emotion Coaching” it teaches that there are four kinds of parenting styles when it comes to dealing with children and their emotions.

1.The Dismissing Parents: This parenting style is characterized by parents who disengage or dismiss negative emotions, they expect time to heal all wounds, and view emotions as toxic. This causes children to feel that there is something wrong with them and that they are not able to control themselves.

2. The Disapproving Parent: This is similar to the dismissing parent, however, this style tends to be more harsh and manipulative. Parents with this style are more concerned with discipline and have little to no interest in where their child’s emotions stem from. Children are affected similarly to those with dismissing parents, feeling that something is wrong or abnormal about them.

3. The Laissez-Faire Parent: This style includes parents who do not offer guidance or support through emotions, these parents also set little to no guidance in regard to behavior. This causes children to have a difficult time focusing and children can have a hard time making and maintaining friendships.

4. The Emotion Coach: (Which is what we are striving for): this is characterized by parents who take time to connect and bond with their children, parents who strive to understand their children’s emotions, and to help the child recognize and understand their emotions as well.

Children who have parents that emotionally coach them are at a greater advantage compared to their peers, who are not. The Gottman Institute states that children who receive emotional coaching from their parents are able to succeed in many aspects of their lives because they are better able to regulate their emotions, they are more confident, perform better academically, and are physically healthier.

In addition to those great benefits, Parenting Counts shares these benefits of emotional coaching saying that children form stronger friendships with other children, calm themselves down more quickly when they get upset, do better in school, handle their moods better, have fewer negative emotions, and even get sick less often.

While all of those benefits sound great, it does not necessarily make emotional coaching an easy process. Parenting Counts provides a step-by-step guide on how to successfully emotionally coach your child.

1. Be aware of emotions: this means understanding your emotions, as well as your child’s. This can be difficult and overwhelming. It is okay to take a moment and step back to better identify your emotions and your child’s if necessary. Don’t push away negative emotions in yourself or your child, remember it is natural and healthy to experience negative emotions. This will get easier over time as you learn to observe and pay attention to your child’s body language, facial expressions, and tone.

2. Connect with your child: It is important for you to encourage your child to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing, while you may want to dismiss your child’s negative emotions, focus on listening and striving to understand at first. Children’s emotions may not always make sense to us and that is why it is essential for us to listen and understand. Then take the time to teach and provide guidance before emotions lead to misbehavior.

3. Listen to your child: Do not avoid or judge your child’s emotions, rather demonstrate that you understand their emotions and help children to feel validated in the way they feel. For example, you can say “Wow, I can see that you are angry that your brother keeps taking the toy away from you.”

4. Name the emotion: Help your child identify what they are feeling by helping build up their emotional vocabulary. Do not just do this based off your observations, but focus on what they said about their feelings. It can also help to talk about your own emotions to help your child understand.

5. Find good solutions: After you have demonstrated that you understand your child’s feelings you help them understand how to handle those feelings. Help your child to explore solutions and avoid “don’t” phrases, rather focus on finding solutions they can do. Example: If your child hit their younger sibling because they stole a toy you would help your children understand that even though they were angry with their child that hitting their sibling was not appropriate. You can ask the child what they think would be a better way for them to behave in the future.

Emotional coaching is not an easy task. It requires attentive and patient parenting. This can be especially difficult when your child has done something that has upset you. As you try to emotionally coach your children remember to give yourself grace. You will not perfectly understand or resolve your child’s emotions. However, as you continue to try to coach your child emotionally you will see it becomes easier and more manageable with time.

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