Chartered psychologist Dr Alice Brown explains how to use emotion coaching to improve your child’s social and emotional intelligence.
On the 29 June 2020, The Sun featured an exclusive on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s approach to parenting, which includes a no-shouting policy, never going to bed mad, and banning all TV before tea-time. The approach they use, Emotion Coaching, encourages the royal children to talk about their feelings and avoids strategies like the ‘naughty step’ and is an approach taught by local psychologist, Dr Alice Brown.
Emotion coaching is a parenting technique that helps children to understand and manage their feelings, both big and small. Based on the research completed by psychologist, Dr John Gottman, it is an approach to behaviour which can be used by parents and anyone who interacts with children and young people when they are struggling to control their emotions and behaviour.
Lots of research has looked at different styles of parenting and what helps children to grow up mentally healthy and resilient. Research in the UK, USA and Australia has shown that emotion coaching helps children calm down more quickly when they get upset, have better friendships with their peers, and even do better at school! Children who are emotion coached have fewer behaviour problems and they are even less likely to get sick. Emotion Coaching can also be used to help children with Autism and ADHD develop better social and emotional literacy skills and have better self-regulation.
Emotion coaching involves 5 simple steps, but the best results are seen when you don’t try to rush through the steps and instead stay with steps 1 to 4 until the child has calmed down and is ready to talk about what happened.
Step 1 is about being aware of your child’s emotions. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we can become less aware of things bubbling in our children, and it is only when there frustration turns into a tantrum that we might notice. To be able to be more aware of our children’s emotions, we also need to be aware of our own and put in place things that help reduce our stress levels.
Step 2 is about recognising emotion as an opportunity to connect. For this step it is useful to remember the saying ‘connection before correction’; this means that before we correct or discipline our child, we should try to connect with the feeling that led to the behaviour. All behaviour is a form of communication, and although we do not want to give the message to children that all behaviour is acceptable, we do want them to know that their feelings are valid.
Step 3 is about helping your child verbally label emotions. Like reading, maths and science, emotional literacy needs to be taught and labelling emotions can be a really helpful way for children to understand the feelings they have in their body and connect this to an emotion. Sometimes we don’t always get the emotion right (or sometimes the child might find it difficult to hear the emotion labelled) and so we should go with what the child says.
Step 4 is about communicating empathy and understanding. It’s important for children to feel heard and understood. Their concept of themselves, other people and the world is developed through sensitive and attuned parenting; that means that for children to feel good about themselves and see others and the world around them as safe and dependable, they need strong, positive relationships with their caregivers. When parents are able to put themselves in their child’s shoes, this helps the child feel that their feelings are important, and they are lovable.
Step 5 is about setting limits and problem-solving solutions. This is a really important step as it helps children to develop boundaries, which has an impact on their behaviour. I liken it to living in a country without any laws; boundaries, like laws, help us to feel safe and this is very important for children to be able to regulate their emotions. Supporting children to find their own solutions to problems is a helpful way to develop their emotional literacy. It is important though that children are calm and able to reflect on what has happened to successfully do step 5.
If you want to find out more about using Emotion Coaching in your family, Dr Alice Brown offers a range of services (online and face-to-face) for families wanting support with their parenting. She strongly believes that everyone is doing the best they can and so her approaches are always strengths-based and non-judgemental. For more information and a free consultation, call 07561579430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org