When we acknowledge a child’s feelings, we do him a great service. We put him in touch with his inner reality. And once he’s clear about that reality, he gathers the strength to begin to cope.Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk1
When I work with parents, I often invite them to think about the things that they find most challenging about parenting their children, and to think about the things that they find most fulfilling about parenting their children.
Many parents tell me that one of the hardest parts of parenting is connecting with their children during high emotion situations, when their children feel sad, angry, or worried.
Many parents also tell me that one of the most rewarding parts of parenting is effectively connecting with their children during these high emotion situations, because doing so brings them closer to their children, and because they can see the positive benefits for their children’s wellbeing immediately.
When we take the time to offer our children our loving support and gentle guidance when their emotions run high, and to serve as our children’s emotion coach – when we help our children to identify, accept, and release their emotions – we strengthen our relationships with our children, and we help our children to become more emotionally healthy and to thrive.
Coaching parenting helps you to raise healthier and happier children
Studies by preeminent relationship researcher and psychologist Dr John Gottman – the developer of the emotion coaching theory and method – have found that children who are emotion coached by their parents have better physical health, perform better academically, have fewer behavioural outbursts, experience fewer negative emotions, and experience more positive emotions compared with children who are not emotion coached2. Put simply, children who are emotion coached have better physical and mental health and are happier than children who are not emotion coached.
Coaching parenting helps you to raise resilient children
Dr Gottman’s research has also shown that children who are emotion coached are better able to bounce back from upsetting moments, because children who are emotion coached learn from a young age how to manage difficult emotions – to accept, understand, and experience them fully – and to express them constructively, rather than destructively.
Emotion coached children also learn from a young age how to self-soothe, or how to calm down, rather than become overwhelmed by their emotions. What this all means is that when we tune in to our children’s emotional world when they are struggling, and respond to our children’s difficult emotions with empathy and concern, our children learn how to handle these emotions more effectively, and to cope more productively with emotionally demanding and stressful situations.
Putting it all together, when we bring a loving and open heart to our interactions with our children, and when we emotion coach our children when they are experiencing uncomfortable emotions, we teach our children critical emotional skills, and we help them to better understand themselves, which will benefit them during their childhood years and beyond. And, by building our children’s emotional intelligence, we give our children the gift of being able to relate well to others, which is key to living a more meaningful and successful life.
I thank you for your commitment to the wellbeing of your child and your family and for your willingness to keep learning and growing. Remember: parenting is hard work and you deserve all the support you need. I feel so grateful to walk alongside you on your parenting journey. My warmest wishes.Dr Michelle Andrews
- Faber, A., & Mazlish, E. (2012). How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. New York: Scribner.
- Gottman, J. (1997). Raising an emotionally intelligent child: the heart of parenting. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.