Updated: Feb 3
Just earlier this week, both my sons Jul and Jay were working through their homework and was taking a little longer that day. They both realized they forgot about their Chinese tuition homework due the next day. This means they had to do the “extra work” in addition to their assigned work.
To be honest, I was upset with the boys for not completing their homework earlier. I had to remind myself “remember... emotion coaching!”
Teaching a child about their responsibilities
Halfway through the work, Jul got really upset and started to cry.
At this point, I was feeling pretty boiled. I had a few options:
To shout at him for not doing his work earlier and for crying because he may not have time to watch his favourite TV show!
Think of my intention and outcome before responding
Walk away and leave him to deal with his own problem
Thankfully, I could still manage my emotions and I went with option 2. Phew!
So, first, I empathise with him (after I used my anchor to calm myself down) by sitting down next to him. Remember, rapport is needed if I want to influence him, so not standing with arms folding!
Then we had a conversation.
Me: “Are you feeling sad that you may not be able to watch your tv?”
Jul (still crying): “yes.. why is there’s so much work!”
Me: “yes.. you must be frustrated as you were planning to complete the movie that you watched halfway..."
Jul: "yes" and then he cries even more.
Me: “ok, what can you do about this situation now?” (asking this question interrupts his brain and shifted his attention from crying to solution-seeking)
Jul (paused and think): “Maybe I’ll not do the composition today as it’s not due until Friday”
Me: “Right, when will you have time to do that?” (still asking questions for him to go through the thinking process of his proposal)
Me: “Okay, as long as you know it means you get to watch your show today and less time to play on Thursday” (reminding him of consequences)
Jul started to cry again!
This went on for about 10 mins and then he finally decided he’s going to work on the homework that’s due on Tuesday and push the Chinese Composition to Thursday.
Sounds tiring, isn’t it?
Guess what? Jul finished his dinner, watched his movie and still had 20 mins left before bedtime. He decided to complete his composition and he did it!
Yes, this can be quite a reiterative process and honestly, it probably will take several times before the child learns the analytical process to develop and decide on his decision. After all, that is how our brain forms and strengths the neuron connections to any new learnings.
In this case, it could be so easy and tempting for me to simply tell him to stop crying, and complete his work otherwise he would be punished. But I asked myself if that would help him in the long run? And the answer is no.
Although this process takes more time, I am given the opportunity to connect and help my child to explore several competencies of emotional intelligence:
To recognize and label his feelings (he is sad and frustrated)
To explore and understand the underlying reason for his feelings (that he may lose his TV time which he treasures a lot)
To recognize his behaviour may not be the most beneficial (asking what he can do about it rather than crying)
To teach him to problem solve (gives him space to be creative in prioritizing his work and play while still meeting his deadlines, helps him evaluate pro and con of his solutions without putting him down)
To empower him to make decisions (even though I didn’t agree with his decision!).
And what did I gain?
I did not take over his problem to become my problem. I remained chill and not allowed this incident to bother me. Isn't this the behaviour we want to role model for our child anyway?
I was pleasantly surprised and very proud of him when he eventually chose to complete his composition the same evening. This was a bonus! I complimented him for his efforts and I could see he felt really proud too.
There was no shouting, no negative feelings with each other and we ended up enjoying the evening together. ✌🏻
A See, Feel and Act Approach towards Emotion Coaching
See means to be attuned to the child’s emotions and helping them recognize and label how they are feeling
Feel is about empathizing with their feelings and situations It means to put ourselves in their world. It means not to put a judgment on their feelings and accepting that all emotions are good. Teaching our children to feel and empathise with others, eg: by sharing our feelings and situations so they can learn.
Act is about how we respond to our child. How we respond when we are upset, how we can guide them to problem solve and teach them about consequences, including any discipline.
Indeed, emotion coaching a child is a challenging journey, but the outcomes are extremely rewarding too! And, if we can support one another, it becomes so much more empowering!
Join me in my upcoming Emotion Coaching group program to explore this journey together. In this program, I’ve integrated resources I resonate with most, ranging from techniques from Neuro-linguistic programming, concepts and practices from Positive Psychology and Mindfulness, as well as tips from well-known experts Dr. Marc Brackett, Dr. John Gottman, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson - that will empower us in becoming our child’s Emotion Coach!
Principles of Emotion Coaching
I’d like to highlight a few principles of Emotion Coaching:
No, emotion coaching isn’t about talking about feelings all day long. Using emotions is the first way for us to connect and empathise with a child before we teach them the cognitive ways of responding to their emotions.
ALL emotions are good. Regardless of positive or negative emotions.
Our child's cognitive development of the brain is the last to develop. In fact, the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for higher-order skills like planning, organising, prioritising, controlling impulse and thinking of consequences, does not start developing until the age of 8-10 years old. It is only fully developed only at the age of 18-22! This explains a lot about a child's lack of ability to regulate their emotions effectively. Hence, it is our job as parents or educators to coach the child about emotions and showing them the appropriate ways to connect and build relationships.
A child's significant adult figure in their life has a great influence over their learning and development. Whether we like it or not, we are the role models for our child and they look up and follow our behaviours. How we respond in stressful situations teaches them how they should respond in a stressful situation too.
Common Feedbacks about Emotion Coaching
The common responses I have heard from parents about emotion coaching.
"My child is testing my patience"
"How can I allow my child to continue with his "unreasonable" behaviours? I need to tell him the right behaviours."
"Won’t we be spoiling our child if we keep focusing on feelings?"
My response is “yes” to all the above comments and “not only will emotion coaching help your child to acquire a life-long skill of enhancing their emotional intelligence, but it will also deepen your relationship with your child!”
Yes, I have to admit that there are times I had to deal with my limited patience, frustration and disappointment. Good news is we get to develop ourselves at the same time too!
Learn More about Elynn'a 5 days emotion coaching workshop https://www.mindfulspace.com.sg/events/becoming-your-childs-emotion-coach-5-week-workshop
WhatsApp +65 9783 7313