As parents we know the importance of preparing our children with the spiritual and intellectual skills they need for life. But rarely do we think about helping them understand and navigate their emotional world. Dr. John Gottman, an acclaimed psychologist and researcher, has written a much needed book called Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. He calls on parents to become Emotion Coaches for their kids and lays out a 5 step process to follow:
- Be aware of your child's emotions
- Recognize emotional expression as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
- Listen empathetically and validate a child's feelings
- Label emotions in words a child can understand
- Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand
Gottman goes on to say that Emotion-Coaching parents "recognize that all emotions--even those we generally consider negative, such as sadness, anger, and fear--can serve useful purposes in our lives." Thus we need to be willing to spend the time needed to listen and empathize with our children's emotions instead of squelching them. We must encourage emotional honesty in our children by validating their feelings and walking through these feelings with them. And it starts, Gottman says, with "getting in touch with our own negative feelings." One parent likened it to the safety instructions they give on airplanes saying, "You've got to get the oxygen in place for yourself first before you can help your child."
This book has changed the way I interact with my kids on the emotional level. I highly recommend it!