Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coaching Your Child's Emotions

The ultimate test of parenthood is that moment when your child is screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of the grocery store because of one word, “No.” Each parent will react differently to this situation based on what works with their child. When handling your child’s emotions, it is important to keep in mind how your reaction will affect their emotional intelligence. Even though something works does not mean it is the best style for your child’s development.


In his book, Raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child, John Gottman brings up how having an emotional bond with your child teaches them values and morals. Practicing emotional communication with children teaches them the importance of being able to recognize emotions and distinctive feelings, A.K.A. Emotional Intelligence (EI). As a parent, it is important to teach your child how to understand their emotions through the example you provide for them. The following styles may determine how a parent my respond to their child’s emotions: 
  • Dismissive: This parenting style may also be known as uninvolved. If a child is showing negative emotions or behavior, the parent will ignore or neglect those feelings.
    • Example Phrases: “That’s silly” or “You’re not really upset”  
  • Disapproving: Children who are expressing negative feelings will be criticized or punished by the parent for showing those emotions.
    • Example Phrases: “I’m tired of your behavior,” or “If you keep acting like this        you’ll be grounded.” 
  • Laissez Faire: The parent will accept and empathize with their child’s emotions, but do not set limits on child’s behavior.
    • Example Phrases: “It’s okay if you’re feeling that way,” or "We'll try again tomorrow” 
  • Emotion-Coaching: Parent is able to empathize with child’s emotions, as well as offering guidance to manage emotions and setting limits on their behavior.
There is no such thing as the “right” parenting style. We all have different personalities when it comes to disciplining children, and each child will respond differently to each style. This makes it hard to find the one right way to raise the perfect child. When I spend time with my nieces and nephews, I deal with each of their emotions differently. I lean more towards the laissez faire style when I am playing with the younger children, because I know their feelings get hurt more often. I want them to stop crying, so I give them a lot of hugs and tell them it will be okay. The older children tend to get the dismissive side of me. If they give me attitude or say something mean, I tend to tell them they’re being silly.

John Gottman emphasizes how emotion-coaching is a great balance between parenting styles, because it focuses mostly on teaching children how to manage their emotions.

The emotion-coaching parent follows these steps when working with their child:

“1. Become aware of the child’s emotions;
2. Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching;
3. Listen empathetically, validating the child’s feelings;
4. Help the child find words to label the emotion he is having; and
5. Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand.”
(pg. 24, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, Gottman)



As you read through this you are probably thinking, “I don’t have enough time to do this every time my child is upset.” We all know children tend to get upset at the most inconvenient times. Whether it is right before you leave for work, drop them off as school, or during your much needed grocery run. Overall, the more time you spend working with your child’s emotional intelligence will improve their ability to manage their feelings. A goal as a parent is to raise their child to be autonomous. Through emotion-coaching, children can learn how to appropriately manage their emotions on their own.

Information came from
Pages 23-24 in John Gottman’s book,

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