Lately, I have read a lot about ‘Emotion Coaching’ children, and although there are many elements to doing this effectively, I would like to share some of the more useful strategies that interest us at Girl Power. First, let’s look at what emotion coaching is. ‘Emotion Coaching’ is a parenting style based on Dr John Gottman’s work, that guides children to be aware of, label and understand their feelings. Children begin to discover how emotions work and their reactions to feelings gradually mature in healthy ways over time. This will not happen suddenly and is a lifelong process – even as adults we are learning to recognize and understand our own emotions.
As an emotion coaching parent, we begin by recognizing our child’s feelings. It is easier to see the many positive emotions a child expresses, however paying attention to a child who is sad or angry requires patience and a willingness to learn. It takes time, mindful effort and determination to coach children in the areas of feelings and healthy behaviour – and it is well worth the effort. This style of parenting strengthens the relationship with your child, and they will be more resilient in handling life’s hurdles as a result.
There are five-steps to emotion coaching children:
Awareness of your child’s emotions
· Awareness of your own myriad of emotions
· Tap into your child’s feelings
· Know and teach that emotions are a natural and vital aspect of life
· Observe all emotional expressions - be it facial, body language and tone of voice.
Connection and intimacy with your child
· Emotions are opportunities for connection
· Avoid evasion of emotions, hoping they will disappear
· Emotions are opportunities for coaching
· Encourage your child to talk about emotions
· Offer coaching before negative emotion builds into poor behaviour.
Listen to your child with empathy
· Display a sense of respect and take their emotions seriously
· Validate your child’s emotions and show you understand
· Understand how they are feeling from their point of view.
· Assist your child to label the emotions they are feeling
· Labelling emotions helps calm a child
· Model emotion labelling and talk about your own emotions
· Teach them - emotions are healthy, natural and normal.
Explore solutions and problem-solve together
· Convey that the emotion is not the issue, it is the behaviour
· Assist them to identify their feelings and emotions and coach why their behaviour was inappropriate
· Encourage emotional expression and set clear boundaries around behaviour
· Problem-solve together, including goal setting in relation to any challenges
· Help by selecting a solution together and perhaps share an example from your life experience
· Be patient and allow for learning
· Watch for your child doing things right and praise her
· Do household chores together and work as a team.
It is easier to see the many positive emotions a child expresses, however paying attention to a child who is sad or angry requires patience and a
willingness to learn.
There is much research on the positive effects of emotion coaching our children. They are more likely to regulate their emotions, be successful throughout life, have robust self-esteem and be healthier both mentally and physically. Next time your child displays negative emotions, attempt to get to the core of what is going on. Try some of the strategies above and keep practising this approach, as it takes time to learn. I continue to learn and practise these strategies and certainly slip up from time to time – as human beings, we all make mistakes and even as adults we are still learning and will continue to do so (also, choose the right time to put some of these strategies into practise – when your child seems calm, versus in the middle of an emotional outburst).
“Emotion coaching parents aren’t impatient with their child’s negative emotions. Their first goal is to communicate understanding and empathy”, Dr John Gottman
Love Olivia Trussell, Girl Power Coach xx