In my coaching practice, one of the most important skills I convey and teach to parents is that of EMOTION COACHING.
“Children need the experience of feeling emotions and practice tolerating them to develop self-control and emotional intelligence. “- John Gottman
Emotion coaching is the practice of tuning into children’s feelings, and teaching them to recognize their emotions and providing them with coping skills to regulate themselves in stressful situations.
Understanding your child’s emotions is one of the most important parenting techniques to learn.
A “tuned in” parent can have a tremendous impact on self-regulation by becoming their child’s emotional coach.
In emotion coaching, parents teach children how to recognize their own emotions and the emotions of others, and use appropriate strategies to cope. When children are taught to deal with their feelings in healthy ways, they develop self-control and the skills necessary to function effectively in a stressful world.
Why is emotional intelligence so important in children?
Emotional intelligence appears to be a strong predictor of success. Research shows children of parents who emotion coach are physically healthier, do better in school, and get along better with friends.
Emotion Coaching can be broken down into 5 different steps:
Step 1: Be aware of your child’s emotions.
Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and sensitive to their children’s emotions.
Step 2: See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching.
Learn to see that your children’s emotions are not an inconvenience or a challenge. They are an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through a challenging feeling.
Step 3: Listen and validate their feelings.
Give your child your full attention while you listen to their emotional expression. Reflect back what you hear. Tell your child you understand what they’re seeing and experiencing.
For example, “I see you’re frustrated with your math homework. It can be hard when you’re just learning new math skills. Why don’t you take a bit of a break and come back to it later. Sometimes, when we step away from something and then look at it again with fresh eyes, it becomes clearer.”
Step 4: Label their emotions.
After you have fully listened, help your child develop an awareness of and vocabulary for their emotional expression.
For example, “I see you’re very sad right now. It’s hard to not be included during recess.”
Step 5: Help your child problem-solve with limits.
All emotions are acceptable, but all behaviors are not. Help your child cope with his or her emotions by developing problem-solving skills. Help your child set goals and generate solutions to reach those goals.
“I know you don’t like getting off your Ipad when your screen time is over. It’s hard to stop something when we are enjoying it so much. I see you’re frustrated, but yelling and throwing your Ipad is not OK behavior. We set-up family rules around screen time for a reason – it’s not good for your growing brain to be on screens for more than x hours. How about I sit with you for a little bit after screen time ends, so you’re not alone feeling frustrated. What else can you do to prepare yourself for your screen time ending?
Sometimes the steps of emotion coaching happen quickly. Other times they can take a lot of time depending on the issues. All five steps do not have to happen all in one interaction.
For some of you, this may sound obvious and an easy step to integrate and teach your child/ren. For others, it sounds like a foreign language that feels a bit strange. I promise you that with a little practice it will come naturally and the benefit to your child will be enormous.
Not only will this help your child build resilience when they are faced with difficult emotions, but as they develop they will be able to express their emotions more easily and start to be more comfortable with forming their opinions. These things will help build a more defined and confident self concept.