In our previous post, we discussed the first three things we know about raising great kids. In addition to attachment and empathy, we know that in order to raise great kids they also need emotion coaching and appropriate modeling. We will discuss these last two points in today’s post.
4. Children learn to manage their emotions—and thus their behavior—when parents emotion-coach.
Decades of research show clearly that when parents emotion-coach (instead of shutting down emotions), kids are healthier and more successful in every way. Emotion-coaching means the parent notices the child's emotions and sees them as an opportunity for intimacy or teaching. The parent acknowledges the child's perspective and empathizes. Once the child has had a chance to express the emotion, the parent supports the child to problem-solve.
Why is emotion-coaching so important? Because the parent helps the child feel safe enough to feel the emotions, so they can be experienced and begin to dissipate. The child learns that emotions aren't dangerous and can be managed.
Kids who are uncooperative, angry or fearful are signaling that they need us to "witness" their feelings by letting them be upset in our loving presence. Children who know their feelings are "allowed" don't store them up, so they're better able to manage their emotions and behavior.
So if you're connecting with your child, and setting limits with plenty of empathy, and your child is still acting out, she's signaling you that she needs help with her emotions. (For more on helping kids when they're angry, see What if your child gets angry, but never breaks through to tears?)
5. Children learn what they live.
This is simple. If we're considerate and respectful to a child, they become respectful, considerate people. Kids who are rude and disrespectful learned it somewhere; if they bring it into the house and we politely remind them that we don't relate that way, they don't adopt that style. If we yell at them, they learn to yell, and they'll be yelling back at us by the time they're eight. Ultimately, what your children experience as they grow up with you will depend on who you are, and that will be more important than any parenting philosophy.
Easy? No. This kind of parenting requires you to manage your own emotions. That's the hardest work there is.
But giving your kids a good start in life means you're sending ripples for generations into the future. Not just your children, but their children, and their children, and their children. Imagine all those happy, compassionate, self-disciplined people, all flourishing and making the world a better place, because of you. They're all waving to you from the future, saying thank you
- For more on attachment, see Robert Karen's book, Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love.
- For more on discipline, a terrific source is Alfie Kohn's book, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason.
- For more on emotional intelligence, check out John Gottman's Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting.
- My video, Top Five Rules For Raising Great Kids