Believe it or not teaching emotional intelligence to children does not come second nature to most of us. That is why people like John Gottman, therapist, professor and researcher of marital and familial relations, have studied such topics and provided us with steps to learn how to teach emotional intelligence to our children. In Gottman’s book, Raising an Emotionally IntelligentChild: The Heart of Parenting, he walks the reader through steps parents can take to help their children learn to successfully regulate their emotions. These strategies are vital since many people who do not learn to regulate their emotions successfully in childhood, are plagued with issues like anxiety disorders and depression in adolescence and adulthood.
Children are pretty open to displaying their emotions, so now you can practice effective ways to help regulate them as a team.
Dr Gottman’s 5-Steps to “Emotion Coaching” A Child
- Be receptive and aware of a child’s emotions – Being in touch with your emotions is helpful in this process.
- When a child expresses their feelings, use it as an opportunity to become closer and teach them how to manage their emotions skillfully – We all encounter good and bad feelings. Providing comfort when a child is experiencing a wide range of emotions can create a closer bond between the two of you.
- Listen empathetically and validate a child’s feelings – By attentively listening to what your child is going through and showing them comfort, they will feel cared for and know how to treat others the same way.
- Help a child verbalize their feeling by labeling them in words they understand – Asking your child if they feel frustrated right now, followed by asking them, don’t you? allows your child to own their feelings. Be as specific with how you label your child’s emotions. Sad can mean a lot of things like, angry, confused, frustrated and hurt. Feelings can also be conflicting so try to tap into your empathy to see what they may be feeling.
- Help a child discover healthy ways to solve a problem – Have your child come up with a few ways to solve their problem. Coming up with solutions with your child can allow them to feel comfortable in their autonomy. The bouncing off of ideas will encourage team effort as well, while allowing you to help them set realistic problem-solving goals.
These steps can help a child learn to express and manage their feelings successfully and also enables them to learn and understand the feelings of the people around them. By teaching children how to express their emotions clearly and effectively we are setting the groundwork for confident, empathic and self-aware adults.
DeClaire, J. & Gottman, J.M. (1997). Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.