Are you a parent who takes notice of your child’s emotional state of mind, and has a developed vocabulary about emotion? Do you ask your child questions about his / her emotions, and then aid the child in being more introspective about it?
When a child is undergoing emotional stress, you as a parent might ask, what is it that makes you feel fearful and sad? This type of parent usually does it with their spouse or partner, and then models it for the child. As an example, the emotional coaching parent may look at their child’s emotions as a global positioning station (GPS) according to Dr. John Gottman. “If you’re angry, it probably means you have a goal you’re not attaining.” Parents with this type of skill look at their emotions, and their child’s, as a way to connect. They will explain to their child (depending upon age and understanding), what’s on their mind, and how they aim to deal with their particular situation.
This type of parent communicates understanding and empathy, and helps the child to use the appropriate words to express his / her feelings. When this approach is used, the child’s internal locas of control or GPS system is reinstated. This type of parent gives the child enough information to understand why they are feeling and acting in certain ways, and then lets the child decide how to deal with the situation – but always with support and praise for appropriate behavior.
A study done by Dr. Gottman and the Talaris Institute involved four year olds with identicial IQ’s who were reared by the two types of parents – those who disregarded and diminished the importance of negative emotions in their child, and those who were emotional coaches. When they checked back on these children at the age of 8, the children who had been emotionally coached did much better in reading and math tests. The emotionally coached kids had established “self soothing / calming techniques and became superior in sustaining attention, focusing attention, and shifting attention.”
If you can focus and calm yourself, you become a better learner according to the research at the institute.
Dr. John Gottman is a pioneer in couples counseling and creator of parent books, and tools at the Gottman Institute.
Talaris Institute was founded in 2000 with the mission of supporting parents and caregivers in raising socially and emotionally healthy children.