The Go-To Mom's Guide for Emotion Coaching

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Updated on Jan 26, 2011

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. More than anything we want to help our kids grow into healthy, happy adults. The more good options we have for laying that foundation the better off we and our children will be.

Emotion coaching is a parenting technique about teaching your child how to recognize and express the way he's feeling in an appropriate way; diversifying his coping skills as he faces different situations.

It's an alternative to old-fashioned discipline, that can be used with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and young kids. And it encourages kids to be internally motivated. Ultimately, it gives parents the know-how and confidence to build strong, productive relationships with their children.

There are four common roadblocks that trip up even the most well-meaning parents. Read on to see if these obstacles are holding you down and to see how emotion coaching can offer another strategy:

Control-Based or Hands-Off Parenting?

Picture this: It’s late afternoon and you’ve finally found five minutes to make the phone call that’s been on your list all day. Meanwhile, your children are running up and down the hallway—feet pounding on the floor and yelling after one another as they erupt into a game of “tag.” As the noise level rises, your patience wanes and you feel your frustration start to boil over.

So now what do you do? If you’re like many parents, you may gravitate toward one of two “traditional” responses. Maybe you blow a gasket, screaming at your kids to pipe down and go to their rooms—or else. Or maybe you simply raise your white flag and find a way to excuse yourself off the call, sighing heavily and throwing your hands up in surrender—because kids will be kids no matter what you do.

Emotion Coaching Solution: Find the middle road.

There's a middle road here. In this particular case there’s no need for punishment, but the kids shouldn't be allowed to disrupt their mother’s phone call either.

Instead of yelling or ignoring, the emotion-coach mom takes a deep breath and says, "Guys, you are being really loud. I can see that you have tons of energy—can you take it outside, please? I’ll come out and play with you as soon as I’m off the phone. Right now, I need your help, so please head out back."

Discount, Minimize or Deny Your Child’s Feelings?

Everyone does it—and usually without realizing they're doing it in the first place. Discounting, minimizing, or denying a child’s statements or feelings are knee-jerk reactions sometimes.

For example, if your child complains of being hungry 30 minutes after you ate lunch together, you think about the fact that you just ate and you aren’t hungry, so there is no way that she can be hungry either. You discount her feelings and brush off her request with a dismissive, “Oh, you couldn’t possibly be hungry!” rather than stopping to truly consider what she's said.

Or, let’s say Tommy falls down on the playground; you pick him up, brush him off and tell him he’s all right. You may think you're doing the right thing by parenting him to not be overly sensitive and to “get back on the horse.” In actuality, you're (unintentionally) neglecting to think about what emotions that incident may stir up for him: pain, fear, or embarrassment, for example.

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