My baby screams the moment I leave, but is fine in my absence.
My toddler loses it when the broccoli touches his potato.
My three year old acts impulsively often displaying negative behaviour.
My four year old struggles to make strong friendships.
What is emotion coaching and how can it help?
At Free Rangers we believe teaching children how to identify and manage their emotions is a life long skill. And as adults and primary carers we are in a good position to coaching them through a positive way to identify and manage the ups and downs of their daily lives.
We have been on numerous training days to further develop the way we emotion coach across the whole setting and as a whole team we have discussed the strategies we use to support children navigating the very natural development of their emotions. We have noticed such a positive impact on the way children have begun to manage their own emotions and build empathy towards others’ emotions that we thought we could pass this on to those that are on the front line the most!
Behaviour and emotions are inextricably linked. The children around us are trying to communicate a need. As adults and primary carers, we need to try to work out these needs. So when your child is particularly challenging (we all have those days) they aren’t trying to deliberately wind you up or press your buttons, they are trying to deal with their emotions and they need help in doing it.
Emotion coaching your child
The only part about emotion coaching I struggle with is the name. It sounds a little trite and contrived, but please put that to one side. When you consistently employ the following steps to different scenarios with your child, you will notice they then approach these difficult times more smoothly next time round, equipped with their own coping mechanisms.
The steps involved with emotion coaching
1. Recognise and empathise.
Try phrases like, “You look sad / I can see you’re feeling angry / wow you’re excited / you look fed up / I can see something isn’t right / tell me about it.”
Remember there are no negative emotions; each are valid and healthy in their own right and we should all move away from trying to sweep the uncomfortable feelings under the carpet. Sometimes emotions aren’t a matter of choice.
2. Label and validate
Try phrases like, “I can see you’re sad, you fell over, I think you tripped over. That must have hurt a little / lot. It would upset me too if I fell over.”
Try to understand and imagine your child’s perspective, use age appropriate language to help them put a name to what feelings they are experiencing and provide a narrative for your child’s emotional experience.
Affirm these feelings, don't dismiss them, you’ll find this aids in calming your child down.
3. Set limits
It’s important to explain you might not move through all these steps immediately. As their primary carer, you’ll know when your child is ready to talk about what they might need to do differently next time, when faced with the same situation.
For example, “It’s ok to feel angry that someone broke your lego, it is really upsetting and I can understand why you were upset. But it’s not ok to then hurt someone / throw a book / break something.”
4. Problem solving
This is often a good stage to cover in the bath or when the child has wound down from the situation, like when they might be relaxed before bedtime.
“You know early when x happened. I wonder what we can think of next time to help you through that situation.”
You can scaffold them to come up with their own ideas. Always talk positively, and empower them to understand and believe they can overcome and manage these behaviours.
It’s good to talk.
There are so many scenarios that children come across each day, if you would like to run a scenario past us we’ll happily provide some phrases through the different stages, that will hopefully help future situations.