Does it ever feel like your child is happy one minute and angry the next, moving between big feelings like the coming and going of ocean waves against the shore?
BYU Psychology professor Ross Flom released a study in 2015 for the Journal of Experimental Psychology that shows kids as young as age 4 can recognize complex emotions in others and see them in themselves around age 5 (LDS Living, 2015).
Unfortunately, as parents, overwhelmed with the stresses and demands of family life and responsibilities, we sometimes fall short in recognizing, validating, and empathizing with our children their right to feel those emotions.
American Psychologist, Dr. John Gottman believed “if children can be encouraged not to dismiss their emotions and shut them out but to really listen to themselves, and learn how to put their feelings into words, and empathize with others’ feelings – that’s emotional intelligence” (Kate, 2018).
Dr. Gottman developed a five-step method to help parents teach their children how to self-regulate and manage their stress responses. Dr. Gottman’s strategy known as Emotion Coaching follows 5 simple steps:
Step 1. Be aware of emotions and tune in to the child’s emotions and your own. Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and sensitive to the emotions of their child.
Step 2. Connect with the child. Children’s emotions are not inconvenient. They are an opportunity for you to connect with your child through a challenging time.
Step 3. Listen to the child. Give your child your full attention. Reflect back on what you hear and validate what they’re experiencing.
Step 4. Identify and name emotions. Help your child develop an awareness and vocabulary for their emotion.
Step 5. Find good solutions. All emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Help your child cope by developing problem-solving appropriate behaviors to their feelings.
You can find more details about Emotion Coaching’s five steps at The Gottman Institute’s website by clicking HERE. Be sure to read the section where Dr. Gottman explains the four ways in which parents respond to their children’s emotions and decide which responding parenting style you relate to.
Emotion Coaching also requires parents to be vulnerable. It requires parents have a mindset and desire to understand their child and not just fix or correct it.
Watch the video below and notice how the character Sadness, from Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, uses Emotion Coaching to help Bing-Bong work through his emotions. See if you can spot Dr. Gottman’s 5 steps.
Recognize how Sadness was aware and acknowledged how Bing-Bong was feeling, how she connected with him, how she listened and took his feelings seriously, named his emotion, and didn’t expect too much from him but comforted and supported him.
This week see if you can put into action Dr. Gottman’s Emotion Coaching steps when a child comes to you with big feelings.
As parents take time to learn and understand Emotion Coaching and implement its practices, parent-child relationships will be strengthened and children will develop more self-confidence and perform better in social and academic situations.
Kate, Kimochis. (2012, April 18). Dr. John Gottman & Dr. Julie Gottman Discuss Tools for Parenting with Emotion Coaching. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3uPPEtyX_I&feature=emb_logo
Owenz, M. (2017, June 26). How to Strengthen Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/strengthen-childs-emotional-intelligence/
TheCurlyQcutie. (2016, November 22). Emotion Coaching Clip. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh0EE2_Y2io
Utah Valley 360. (2015, July 27). 6 Ways to Help Your Kids Understand Their Emotions. LDS Living. Retrieved from https://www.ldsliving.com/6-Ways-to-Help-Your-Kids-Understand-Their-Emotions/s/7956