The Importance of Emotionally Coaching Children
As parents it is our job to help our children with their feelings and emotions. It is so important to make space for a child’s feelings, be their emotional coach and help them develop emotional intelligence.
“If parents react to children’s distress-related emotions by ignoring, criticising, or punishing them, children may learn that they cannot communicate their emotions in a clear and direct way. Dismissive responses have been linked to poorer child emotion understanding and regulation, higher physiological arousal, and poorer adaptive outcomes. Parental attempts to change children’s behaviour without responding to underlying emotions might miss addressing the meaning or function which that behaviour holds.” (Sophie S. Havighurst 2012 et al)
Focus on the emotions not the behaviour
“Parental attempts to change children’s behaviour without responding to underlying emotions might miss addressing the meaning or function which that behaviour holds.” (Sophie S. Havighurst 2012 et al) Parents can often focus on wanting to develop behavioural management strategies when dealing with children’s behaviours which fail to get to the root cause. When parents become too focused on the child’s behaviour they fail to acknowledge the feelings that the child is experiencing which often are correlated to the behaviour they express.
When we ignore, criticise or punish children for expressing their feelings children over time start to learn that they cannot communicate their emotions in a clear and direct way. This then causes them to develop protective defensive mechanisms when it comes to their feelings. This can be seen in adults who shut down or repress their feelings, failing to talk to people about how they feel or masking over their feelings with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
“Parent’s own emotion awareness and regulation also plays an important role in emotion socialisation. Katz and Windecker-Nelson found that mothers of conduct problem children were less aware of their child’s emotions, had poorer insight into emotional experiences, were less able to differentiate emotions, and had fewer strategies to teach their children about emotions. Thus, both parents’ emotion socialisation practices and their own emotion awareness and regulation represent important targets for intervention” (Sophie S. Havighurst 2012 et al)
Have a think now what did you learn about feelings as a child and how does this impact you today?
Developing awareness around your own emotions and regulation should be one of the main focuses for parents, especially those parents who are struggling with their children’s behaviour. When we are able to focus on our own self regulation we are then able to co-regulate with our children, be their safe space for when their big feelings show up and help coach them through these feelings.
A 2012 study has shown through emotion coaching parenting programmes parents reported less emotional dismissiveness and reduced child behaviour problems. Parents also reported greater empathy and had improved observed emotion coaching skills; their children had greater emotion knowledge and reduced teacher-reported behaviour problems.
‘‘Tuning into Kids’’: Reducing Young Children’s Behavior Problems Using an Emotion Coaching Parenting Program Sophie S. Havighurst • Katherine R. Wilson • Ann E. Harley • Christiane Kehoe • Daryl Efron • Margot R. Prior
“Fiona encouraged me and gave me confidence to implement the tools and strategies that a book could never give. She would listen to the situations that had occurred and gave me practical tips and advice about how to deal with them. She would then recap and ask how things went the following week and if anything had changed. I do a lot of what she recommended with my children and the relationship with my children has flourished.”