I previously wrote about my intention to Emotion Coach my children. I’ve read the beginning of The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching according to my Kindle. The book gave 4 obstacles that parents fall into when parenting their children. I’ve read these obstacles and tried to implement the “better approach”. Below are two of the obstacles and the other two will be in a new post in the near future!
Obstacle 1: Control-Based or Hands-Off Parenting
It’s commonly believed (maybe not consciously) that there are two approaches to parenting. The control based parenting technique or the hands off parenting technique. I have to admit that I am a combination of both and it depends on my mood. I never consciously said “I am going to be control based when I’m parenting my 3 year old and 1 year old.”
The example in the book is: children are running around upstairs while mama is on the phone. The children are making a ton of noise. Control-Based Mama would “throw down the phone, fling open the door, and screen ‘STOP IT RIGHT NOW! YOU’RE DRIVING ME NUTS!…Keep it up and there’s no ice cream after dinner!” Hands-Off Mama would “simply sigh, shake her head, say to her friend ‘Oh, it’s just the usual craziness around here…so noisey…what can you do?’ and get off the phone, surrendering to the noise”. Emotion Coaching Mama would “take a deep breath and say ‘Guys, you’re being super-loud. I see you have tons of energy – you’re running like crazy chickens – can you take it outside, please? I’ll come out…as soon as I’m off the phone, but for now I need your help, so please head out back”.
My daughter was going crazy and running around as I was trying to clean the house. It was a frustrating experience because I was trying to pick up the toys in the living room for guests to come over to the house. I took a breath and asked my daughter to come over to me so that I could speak with her. I said to her “I know you’re having fun runing around and screaming but I need to clean up so our friends can come over. Would you please go to your room to play and when I’m done out here, I’ll come into your room and play?” And would you believe that she actually said “okay, mama” and went to her room? Of course, being a 3 year old her attention span is not quite there yet but it was long enough for me to get 75% of the cleaning done. I would call this a success!
BTW – I learned in an Emotional Intelligence workshop that your body releases all sorts of things that help with the fight or flight response but when you take a deep breath, you’re telling your brain that everything is okay. That’s why when you take a breath, you feel calmer. So seriously, TAKE A DEEP BREATH before responding to a stressful or frustrating situation.
Obstacle 2: Discounting, Minimizing, and Denying
I never realized I did this to my children almost every day!! It’s as small as me telling my daughter that I couldn’t believe she was still hungry after eating her meal an hour ago. By doing this, I was discounting my daughter’s feelings. “Emotion coaching is simply a matter of exploring instead of immediately discounting or denying a child’s statement and feelings.”
Going along the same lines as meals – Blaine states that “parents sometimes tend to put their own feelings and issues before their child’s. Mom just ate, so she’s not hungry; therefore her child can’t possibly be either”. She recommends being more supportive by responding with “You’re hungry again? Really?! Is your stomach growling, or are you thirsty?” I use this exact script and now my daughter, after just a week of saying this, will say to me “I’m hungry mama but I’m probably thirsty”. And I’ll give her a glass of water. Another success!
Blaine gives an example of when a child falls and the parent says “you’re all right”. Every parent has good intentions and believes this will toughen up a child or make them less sensitive. However, a child who may have just fallen has several different feelings that they experience such as embarrassment and surprise. You would apply emotion coaching “when your child is crying or is in noticeable emotional distress”. Showing empathy is the best approach.
My 15 month old son was walking along the playground and he fell. Before reading this book, I would say “You’re okay buddy. Get up and play.” But he would continue to cry until I gave him a hug. Once I read this section, I immediately applied it. Now when my son falls, I ASK him if he’s okay. When I ask this and he says “yes” he IMMEDIATELY smiles and goes back to playing. However, if he is really hurt, he’ll come over to me, show me where it hurts and I’ll give him a hug and give him the attention he needs. After a couple of minutes of hugs, I ask if he’s okay and if he says “yes” then he goes back to playing. I haven’t pushed him to return to playing and just wait for him to feel comfortable about heading back out. Success again!
The difference in my children is amazing. They appear to be happier, able to express how they feel a little bit better, and I’m definitely more relaxed and easy going. I’m not saying it’s perfect all the time and that I still don’t say things like “you’re okay” or “you’re not hungry” but I’m more aware of it and will make adjustments as necessary.
What are your thoughts so far on emotion coaching? What are your examples? Are you going to try to apply some of these lessons and see how it goes for you? I’d love to hear about your journey too!