Theoretical Background
and Support

Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and Emotion Coaching - Part 1

The importance of Emotional Intelligence has gained popularity in parent education and currently there are at least 3 parenting books on the market that use Emotional Intelligence as core tenant.   Emotionally Intelligent Parenting- How to Raise a Self-Disciplined, Responsible, Socially Skilled Child, by Elias, Tobias and Friedlander; How to Raise a Child with High EQ A Patent's Guide to Emotional Intelligence by Shapiro; and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.                                                                                                                                         

In Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, John Gottman, PhD ( reports that after a decade of research he has discovered five specific parenting strategies that helped develop emotionally well-adjusted children. Gottman discovered that children who had "Emotion Coaching" parents were on an entirely different developmental trajectory than the children of other parents.

Specifically these children could regulate their own emotional states and were better at soothing themselves and "calming down" when they were upset. These children could actually slow down their hearts faster.  Gottman reports that because of the superior performance in that part of their physiology that is involved in calming themselves, they had fewer infectious illnesses.  These children were better at focusing attention and related better to other people and seemed to understand them better.  They had better friendships with other children and performed better in academic situations.  These kids have developed a kind of "IQ" as it relates to people and the world of feelings, or emotional intelligence. 

These five strategies of "Emotion Coaching" are designed to raise an emotionally intelligent child.  EmoSocial will be a great aid in this developmental process. These sequential five steps start with:

  • Become aware of the child's emotion.  EmoSocial will be an important aide in this process of helping your child identify their feelings or emotion.
  • Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching.  By identifying the emotion clearly you set the stage for being able to respond empathically.
  • Listen empathetically, validating the child's feelings. EmoSocial gives one insight into the various feeling states that can then be validated. When a child chooses a sad face it can be validated be reflecting back to them "It looks like your feeling sad"
  • Help the child find the words to label the emotion that he/she is having.  EmoSocial will be a great aide in the identification and labeling of the emotion.
  • Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand. It is important for a child to know that there is a need for containment of emotion, some closure and the need to move on to the next thing.  EmoSocial's EmoGraming process will act as a container for difficult feelings.  Often being able to verbally record ones feeling and talk about what is bothering the child can assist in the process of self-regulation. 

The Effects of Emotion Coaching

Gottmans research shows that parents that consistently practiced Emotion Coaching have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents that don't offer such guidance.   These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems and less prone to acts of violence.  Over all, children raised with Emotion Coaching experienced fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings resulting in being more emotionally healthy. 

Another result of Gottmans research is that EC children are more resilient.  EC children still get angry, sad or fearful in difficult circumstances, but they are better at soothing themselves and can bounce back from distress and move forward with productive activities.

How Emotion Coaching can reduce your child's risks

The world that we live in is full of risks for our children. The risks run from alcohol and drug abuse to violence in our schools, our children are confronted with a variety of challenges both emotionally and physically.  One of the ways we can keep our children safe from the many risks children face lies in building stronger emotional bonds with them.  Gottman also site evidence that is mounting that kids who feel their parents' love and support are better protected from threats of youth violence, antisocial behavior, drug addiction, premature sexual activity, adolescent suicide and other social ills. Studies reveal that children who feel respected and valued in their families do better in school, have more friendships, and live healthier, more successful lives.

Parenting Styles Past and Present

One key theme that needs to be addressed is a basic shift in how we see emotions in children.  There is a strong tradition of discounting children's feelings simply because children are smaller, less rational, less experiences, and less powerful than the adults around them.  Taking children's emotions seriously requires empathy; keen listening skills and a willingness to see things from the child's perspective.  I think that there is also a tendency for us adults to minimize and discount our own feelings, which also factors into how we react to our children.  There is an old saying that comes to mind that reinforces this mindset "Children are to be seen, but not heard". 

Emotion Coaching goes counter to this "seen but not heard" idea and values a child feelings and experience of the world.  Ideally a child's disclosure is used to create more connection and bonding. If the parent can empathize with their kids and feel what they are feeling they open a pathway of experiences that lead to a child developing good emotional awareness, feeling understood and cared for.  Empathy not only matters; it is the foundation of effective parenting.

Research on "Emotion Coaching"

Emotion Coach Characteristics

  • Values the child's negative or difficult feelings as a chance to connect.
  • Is able to handle time with a sad, mad or scared child and is able to be patient with the emotions.
  • Is in touch with and values his or her own emotions
  • Sees negative feelings as a valued opportunity for parenting.
  • Is sensitive to the child's emotional state, even when they are subtle.
  • Honors the child's feelings
  • Does not make fun of the child's negative feelings.
  • Does not speak for the child or tell them how they feel.
  • Does not feel that he or she has to fix every problem for the child
  • Uses emotional moments as a time to
    • Listen to the child
    • Empathize with soothing words and affection
    • Help the child label the emotion he or she is feeling
    • Offer guidance on regulating emotions
    • Set limits and teach acceptable expressions of emotions
    • Teach problem-solving skills

Children that get good emotional coaching learn to trust their feelings, regulate their own emotions, and are better problem solvers.  These children have good self esteem, learn well and get along well with others.

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