How do we foster emotionally healthy children? Researcher Psychologist John Gottman found two categories of interactions with kids: Emotion Dismissers and Emotion Coaches.
Emotion coaches DO FIVE THINGS:
Notice lower intensity emotions in self and kids. Kids don’t have to escalate to get noticed.
See these emotional moments as an opportunity for intimacy or teaching; See these as a healthy part of normal development, even being sad or angry or afraid; Are not impatient with kid’s negative affect.
Communicate understanding and empathy; Empathize with emotions, even with emotions behind misbehavior.
Help child verbally label all emotions she is feeling. What does having words do? Important we think Kid processes withdrawal emotions very differently, we think it becomes a bilateral frontal lobe processing (review frontal asymmetry research of Davidson and Fox). Withdrawal emotion, but tinged with optimism, control, sense you can cope.
Communicate that while all feelings and wishes are acceptable, not all behavior is acceptable. May not approve of the misbehavior. Communicate family’s values. They set clear and consistent limits if there is misbehavior (CRITICAL. We had parents who did everything else but this step and their kids turned out aggressive) and they PROBLEM SOLVE for negative affect that has no misbehavior (which is most of it). Not impatient with this step (get suggestions from kid first). Clear, consistent limits convey values. They may do this communication of values in an emotional way. Emotional communication is a two-way street.
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