Emotion Coach

Dr. John Gottman has created these parenting styles– the Dismissive Parent, the Disapproving Parent, and the Laisezz-Faire Parent, in his book How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child. His research and a self assessment of parenting styles are in his book, and it has been a huge help to me to raise my awareness on how I can improve my parenting style.

This last post covers his fourth and final parenting style, as an Emotion Coach. Here is Dr. Gottman’s list of what that looks like.

An Emotion Coach:

-values the child’s negative emotions as an opportunity of intimacy

-can tolerate spending time with a sad, angry, or fearful child; does not become impatient with emotion

-is aware of and values his or her own emotions

-sees the world of negative emotions as an important arena for parenting

-is sensitive to the child’s emotional state even when they are subtle

-is not confused or anxious about the child’s emotional expression; knows what needs to be done

-does not poke fun or make light of the child’s negative feelings

-does not say how the child should feel

-does not feel he or she has to fix every problem for the child

An Emotion Coach uses emotional moments as a time to:

–listen to the child

–empahzize 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 expression of emotions

–teach problem-solving skills

“Effects on this style of children: They learn to trust their feelings, regulate their own emotions, and solve problems. They have high self esteem, learn well, get along well with others.”

Dr. Gottman continues:

“As you empathize, see if you can experience your shared emotions as a physical sensation. I compare this to the way you allow a rousing piece of music to stir up your emotions, make you feel exited, sad, passionate or inspired. You can choose to be with your child’s feelings the same way, allowing them to resonate with in you. If you can do this you’ll be able to say from the heart, “It is sad that Daddy had to leave without you.” “Being hit by a friend would make me angry too.” “I can see that you hate it when I correct you.’

“Remember also that you don’t always need words to communicate understanding. Your willingness to sit quietly with a child as the two of you grapple with feelings speaks volumes. For one, it can indicate to your child that you take the matter seriously. It can also say that you agree that this is not and insignificant problem; it requires thought and attention.’

What I love about this parenting style is the empathy and compassion that will be available for our children. There is also an emphasis on setting limits and problem solving when the child has churned through his feelings, felt understood and is ready to listen.

The five essential steps of Emotion Coaching:

  • Be aware of your child’s emotion
  • Recognize your child’s expression of emotion as a perfect moment for intimacy and teaching
  • Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings
  • Help your child learn to label their emotions with words
  • Set limits when you are helping your child to solve problems or deal with upsetting situations appropriately

This style of parenting really resonates with me. The book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, was a worthwhile read. It isn’t too long, and his points are on the mark. Even though the self assessment seems long, it showed me the holes in my parenting style. I think you will see that reading this book will help you to remember to be more patient, empathic and a better listener. As we become more aware of our feelings and theirs, that will help our children recognize their own feelings and in turn, have their feelings validated by us. By doing so, Dr. Gottman promises, we can create a more intimate bond with our children. We will be a safe haven in this bewildering world.

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