Emotion-coached children tend to experience fewer negative feelings and many more positive feelings. When you look back on memories of your own childhood, you may recognize that some of the strategies below were used by your parents when you felt the closest to them – when you felt that they could really relate to you, when you were truly understood.
The five essential steps of Emotion Coaching:
- Be aware of your child’s emotion
- Recognize your child’s expression of emotion as a perfect moment for intimacy and teaching
- Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings
- Help your child learn to label their emotions with words
- Set limits when you are helping your child to solve problems or deal with upsetting situations appropriately
Once a child understands and can regulate their own emotions, they will have higher self-confidence, perform better in social and academic situations and may even become physically healthier.
The next time your child expresses negative emotions about something, or misbehaves in some manner, try to figure out the underlying cause of their feelings.
- Show your child respect and understanding in moments when they feel misunderstood, upset, or frustrated. Talk through their feelings with them and try to understand their source.
- Be aware of your child’s responses to your method of working through the moment with them.
- In difficult interactions, make sure your child feels your empathy, by patiently validating their feelings and getting to the root of their expression.
- Instead of focusing on your parental agenda in these situations, show your child that you respect their attempts to solve problems, and guide them with trust and affection. Work through these experiences together.
Some phrases parents can use are:
“It’s okay to be upset. It’s good to let it out.”
“I hear you. I am here for you. I’ll stay with you.”
“It’s okay to feel how you feel. It is not okay to _________.”
“How you feel right now won’t last forever. It’s okay to feel how you are feeling. It will pass and you will feel better.”
“Let’s take a breath, take a break, sit down, pause for a minute…..”
“You are good and kind.”
“I’ll be there when you need me.”
“Let’s have a do-over.”
“What can we learn from this? What is the lesson in this? What is the emotion trying to tell us?”
“You’ll remember next time.”
Gottman, John, and Joan DeClaire. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998.