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Posts Tagged ‘Emotional Health’

Could ‘Emotion Coaching’ Be the Key to Good Parenting?

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Sick of parenting advice? Then read on, because according to experts, this may be the last piece of it you’ll ever need. “Emotion Coaching”—a lifelong process designed to teach children how to manage their difficult feelings—was designed by psychologist Dr. John Gottman. His theory? “The key to good parenting lies in understanding the emotional source of problematic behavior.” Bookmark these five simple steps in advance of your kid’s next meltdown.

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Step 1: Be aware of your child’s emotion

“Show your child respect and understanding in moments when they feel misunderstood, upset, or frustrated,” writes Gottman. Rather than tuning out ’til the storm passes, distracting, bribing or punishing them, roll up your sleeves and get in there. “Talk through their feelings with them and try to understand their source.” Your goal is simple: Empathy. Put yourself in his little shoes to understand what’s motivating his strong emotion.

The next time your son hits his sister, for example, do not lose your cool and immediately send him to his room for a time out. Instead, try saying something like: “I can see that you’re really mad that your sister knocked down your tower. Do you also feel frustrated because you worked on it all morning and now you need to start over? Does that make you feel overwhelmed?” Try offering up your own experience: “Once, when I was working on a big work project, my computer broke and erased it all! I remember I felt so hopeless. But I redid my work, and it came out even better in the end.”

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Step 2: Recognize your child’s expression of emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching

This step is simply about shifting your perspective. Try looking at the-stuff-of-nightmares outbursts (e.g., tantrums on the floor of the cheese aisle) as the definition of “a teachable moment.” Of course they will trigger your own anxiety. But by supporting your child when she’s in crisis-mode, you are—in a funny way—actually controlling the moment. Best of all, you’re creating memories she can later recall to self-soothe, teaching her, ultimately, to work through problems herself.

Step 3: Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings

“Rather than asking a child how they feel, observe them—their facial expressions, body language, gestures, and the tone of their voice. If your toddler is crying, she probably doesn’t know why. Asking her won’t help,” explains one of Gottman’s colleagues. Instead of drilling down with questions, offer simple observations (“You seem really upset”) and validation (“My feelings would be hurt if my friend pushed me, too.”). Once your child is calm, collaborate on problem-solving strategies or solutions. (“Would it make you feel better if we all had a talk about taking turns? Or should we try playing with something else?”)

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Step 4: Help your child learn to label their emotions with words

Per Dr. Gottman, finding words to describe a problem “can help children transform an amorphous, scary, uncomfortable feeling into something definable, something that has boundaries and is a normal part of life… [something that] everybody has and everybody can handle.” Naming emotions has even been shown to calm a child’s central nervous system, he writes. Adds UC Berkeley sociologist Dr. Christine Carter of Gottman’s method: “The larger our children’s emotion vocabulary is, the easier it is to label emotions in the heat of the moment.”

Here’s a Gottman-supplied sample dialog between a father and son (emphasis ours):

Dad: “It sounds like you feel upset about the math test.”
Son: “Yeah… I feel like I could have done better. I should have studied more. Jimmy got an A. He told everyone.”
Dad: “I know how that goes. I used to HATE it when I had messed up on something and other kids shouted out their good grades. It made me so jealous.”
Son: “It’s sooo annoying! It felt really bad… I guess I was jealous.”

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Step 5: Set limits when you are helping your child solve problems or deal with upsetting situations appropriately

After you empathize, validate, connect, etc., your work as a parent is not done. You still need to deal with the problematic behavior. The key is to treat the behavior as unacceptable—not the child. Describe the problem without making it personal, blaming or shaming: “Feeling angry is ok but hitting is not. Hitting hurts. Little sisters are not for hitting.” Then, problem-solve together. You might ask: “What could you do the next time you feel angry with her?” He might suggest: “Count to ten? Take a walk? Hit a pillow? Come and tell you?” Helping your child decide on a solution is empowering, writes Gottman, because it enhances “their abilities and confidence in thinking for themselves.” With enough repetition, he promises they will.

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Secure

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Secure, Included, Respected, Important and Accepted

According to Dr. Newmark, the fifth critical emotional need of children is the need to feel secure. Helping children feel secure means creating a positive environment where people care about one another and show it, express themselves, listen to others, accept differences, resolve conflicts constructively, provide structure and rules so that children to feel safe and protected and give children opportunities to participate in their own growth and the evolution of their family.

These important elements contribute to children’s sense of security:

  • Their Parents’ Relationship – When parents bicker, treat each other without respect and rarely show affection for each other, children experience anxiety and insecurity. If couples treated each other with the five emotional needs in mind, they would be better role models for their children.
  • A Caring, Affectionate Environment – Ob­serving affection between their parents and receiving affection from them is very important to children’s sense of security. The beginning and ending of the day, week, month and year present opportunities for regular demonstrations of affection toward your children. Remember to take care of yourself, too.
  • Traditions and Rituals – Establishing traditions and rituals for family celebrations and participating in family activities give children a sense of stability and security.
  • Their Parents’ Anxiety – Overprotective and excessively controlling parents often produce insecure, uptight, anxious children who carry some of these hang-ups and anxieties into adulthood.
  • Discipline – Children need structure to feel secure. Establish rules and consequences together. Avoid creating ambiguous expectations, implementing too many rules, creating inappropriate or excessive consequences, being inconsistent with the consequences and using physical punishment.
  • Self-Discipline – Encourage self-discipline so your children develop it. Allow your children to explore and experience the consequences of their actions. This way, they learn to anticipate negative consequences and exercise self-control to avoid them. If their parents are too controlling, children don’t have this opportunity.

Children need freedom as much as they need control. Being too protective can result in intimidated or rebellious children. Our goals are to protect them so they don’t suffer from their im­pulses and inexperience and to give them enough freedom to grow into confident, self-reliant, thoughtful, independent, caring and civic-minded individuals. Growing up in a positive and stable environment contributes to a child’s sense of security.

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

Click here to read article four in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Included, Respected, Important,  Accepted and Secure

Feeling included is the fourth critical emotional need of children. They need to feel like they belong, they are a part of things, they are connected to other people and they have a sense of community. Children join cliques, clubs and teams to satisfy their need to belong.

People who do things together feel closer to one another. Family activities offer a way to become closer, have fun, learn and contribute to the happiness of others. Identifying strongly with the family unit makes children more resistant to negative outside influences and more open to positive role models within the family. Obviously, we can’t include children in everything, but we need to make a conscious effort to include our children when we decide on family activities. This way, the activities will that appeal to everyone. Regularly repeated activities can become traditions that further satisfy a child’s need to feel included and secure.

Including children in your work life has multiple benefits. Describe your work environment, your job duties, your co-workers and your feelings about your work and your fellow workers. If possible, take them to work and encourage them to ask questions and give their opinions. If you work at home or have your own business, introduce them to clients and co-workers and let them do some work for you and with you.

Communication is another key tool for helping children feel included.  Parent-child communications are often brief, dull or haphazard.  Consequently, despite their best intentions, caring parents may have little understanding of what their children are thinking or feeling. Meanwhile, children often feel misunderstood and puzzled by their parents’ actions and frustrated by what they feel are attempts to control and overprotect them. The challenge for parents is to move from sporadic, brief interchanges to a sustained and substantive dialogue. Family meetings and feedback sessions provide the settings and contexts for this dialogue to happen. These sessions should take place at a regular time. Let everyone share their thoughts and feelings and discuss how everyone feels the family is doing, how individuals are doing and what your family could be doing differently and better. Make a conscious decision to include children in choices, discussions and decisions in their everyday lives.

Next time we’ll address the need to feel secure.

Did your parents read to you every night or begin and end each day with a warm hug?

If you’ve divorced, do you ever say bad things about your children’s other parent? Are you cordial to each other in your children’s presence? Have you explained what happened without blaming the other parent and emphasized that the divorce was not the children’s fault?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Accepted, Respected, Important, Included and Secure

The third critical emotional need of children is to feel accepted. Accepting children means listening to them, trying to understand them and accepting their right to their own viewpoints, feelings, desires, opinions, concerns and ideas. If you condemn or ridicule children’s feelings or opinions, they may feel that something is wrong with them. When they feel that way, they are less likely to listen to you and let you influence them.

Children can feel rejected when their parents do the following:

  • Overreact or respond emotionally;
  • Try to suppress the child’s feelings;
  • Be overly critical.

Parents can help their child feel accepted by doing the following:

  • Accepting the child’s desires and discussing them amicably;
  • Understanding that feelings aren’t right or wrong and the child has a right to them. Parents should not try to talk a child out of his or her feelings;
  • Remembering not to sweat the small stuff;
  • Catching your child doing something right and praising the child for it.

Acceptance is not permissiveness. It doesn’t mean giving children free license to act in any way they wish. Remember the distinction between wants and needs. You never will be able to satisfy all of your child’s wants, and it would not be good for your child if you did. On the other hand, as parents, we must make every possible effort to satisfy our children’s critical emotional needs. Accept your children as people in their own right and act accordingly.

Consider the following:

Did your family do much together when you were growing up? Were you sent to your room when your parents had company? Were you protected from a truth that everyone knew but no one discussed?

Do you ask your child’s opinion on important things or ask how your child feels after a big family argument or event, such as a remarriage? Do you let your child listen to you and your spouse discuss anything significant?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Important, Respected, Accepted, Included and Secure

Children need to feel important, which means they need to feel that they have value, they are useful, they have power and they are somebody special. The following are examples of how parents can help develop or diminish a child’s sense of importance.

Being Overprotective – Parents may diminish children’s sense of power by limiting them too much. Children need to experiment and try new things. We need to encourage their curiosity, experimentation and desire for adventure instead of saying no too often.

Being Excessively Permissive – However, if you never or rarely say no or if you try to satisfy all of your children’s desires, they could develop a false sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations, which will hurt them in the future as they discover the realities of life. Distinguish between wants and needs. When you say no to something a child wants, you should still honor the five critical needs.

Talking Too Much and Not Listening – We talk, we lecture, we give advice, we tell children how to feel and what to think and we overpower them with words when we should listen and pay more attention to what they say, think and feel. Give your children your undivided attention, even when you only have a few minutes.

Making All the Decisions – When parents make all the decisions and solve all their children’s problems, children miss an opportunity to increase their self-confidence and develop good judgment and decision-making skills.  Asking their opinions and listening to their answers contributes to their sense of importance. Let your children make small, age-appropriate decisions, such as what to wear, what vegetable to eat with dinner, what board game to play and what color collar the family pet should wear, etc.

If we provide constructive, meaningful ways to make children feel important, they will not need to engage in inappropriate destructive activities to convince themselves and others that they are important.

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project

Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

 Feeling Respected, Important, Accepted, Included and Secure

One of children’s critical emotional needs is to feel respected. For children to feel respected, adults need to be courteous, thoughtful, attentive and civil to them. As individuals, they deserve the same courtesy and consideration as others. Children learn about respect by being treated respectfully and by observing their parents and other adults treating one another with consideration.

When adults don’t treat children with respect, it can lower children’s self-esteem and cause them to rebel and act disrespectfully toward others.

Their parents’ opinions, values, attitudes and actions matter to children. Children have some of the same needs as adults, and what we say and how we say it affects them.

For example saying, “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t have time right now,” is as quick and easy as saying, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Stop bothering me!” With children, a simple act of courtesy can go a long way.

If we want our children to grow up feeling respected and treating others with respect, we need to do the following:

  • avoid being sarcastic, belittling children or yelling at them. We need to keep our anger and impatience to a minimum;
  • avoid lying;
  • listen more and talk less;
  • give fewer commands and more suggestions and requests;
  • say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ to our children;
  • become conscious of our mistakes, be willing to admit them and be ready to correct our behavior.

Displaying these behaviors as parents will help us cultivate our values in our children.

In the next blog article in this series, Dr. Newmark will discuss children’s need to feel important. Until then, consider the following.

When you were a child, did adults constantly interrupt you before you could finish your thoughts?

If your toddler is feeding herself and getting food on her bib and clothes, do you grab the spoon and yell, “Stop that. You’re making a big mess. Here, I’ll feed you,” or do you put your arm around her and say, “Isn’t that great? You’re trying to feed yourself.”

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”