What is emotional coaching and why does it matter?
Why all kids need an emotional coach!
Emotions are powerful. At some point we all experience exactly how powerful our emotions can be over our decisions. Heightened emotions can be like a race car speeding down the highway. They can feel out of our control. For many of us, our emotions dictate our behaviour which can often lead to regret and guilt.
How many times have you lost your temper and then later felt bad about it?
How many times have you sent an angry text message and regretted it?
Understanding the affects our emotions have on our decisions and overall behaviour is an integral part of resiliency. It’s easy to be reactive. It’s easy to wait for life to happen to us and simply react to those difficult experiences. What takes work is living with intention. Actively creating the person that we want to be and the life that we want to have. But how do we teach this to children? When our emotions are so powerful that they take control of our decisions and lives how can we possibly teach children to manage their own big feelings?
If emotions are a race car then what we need is to be looking for the brakes. The first thing we learnt when driving a car is how to stop. Once we slow down we can steer properly.
For children they experience their race car emotions every day. As their brains are developing learning how to regulate will become easier. But it still takes work and requires a coach. Your child’s brain is wired to be unreasonable, over emotional and ego-centric. These developmental stages are clearly represented by their behaviour. Your little one’s tantrums, defiance, aggression and disobedience are all a side product of their emotional development.
As their emotional race car takes off down the highway they struggle to find the brakes making it impossible for them to navigate (make sound decisions).
This is where the importance of becoming your child’s emotional coach kicks in. Put simply, emotional coaching is a process where an adult guides their child through their emotional stages and provides support they need to navigate calmly and mindfully. There are three core areas of emotional coaching which can be broken down even further.
Regulating, relating and reasoning.
Emotional coaching must always begin with the adults ability to regulate. Because your child is emotionally underdeveloped it is your role to coregulate their emotions with them. The key to regulation is understanding your child’s emotional intelligence. When we can see the stress that their brain is under during challenging behaviours it allows us to remain calm and focused.
The second key area of emotional coaching is relating. This is where the adult puts themselves in their child’s shoes and attempts to feel how they may be feeling in the moment. When we relate to someone else in a heightened emotional state it creates a bridge between us. What your child’s emotional brain needs more than anything is understanding and patience. By simply acknowledging how your child feels in the moment you can begin to relate to them.
“I can see that you’re upset.”
“I can tell that this is hard for you.”
The third and final category of emotional coaching is reasoning. Once you have coregulated and related to your child you are now in a position to navigate them forward. Reasoning is done through guiding questions that elicit intrinsic responses from your child. Use this time to explore potential solutions and compromises.
Emotional coaching is like teaching your child how to drive their emotional race car.
We begin by locating the brakes and the gas pedal.
Defining Emotions: How am I feeling right now? Do I like my feelings or decisions?
Then we work on steering.
Problem Solving: How do I want to feel? How can I get my needs met? What step can I take next?
Finally, we teach road signs and traffic laws.
Broader Understanding: How does my behaviour affect others? What can I change? What can make this easier for next time?
As you can see emotional coaching has many facets and has a powerful impact on family relationships. While it does require patience and consistency on the part of the parent, emotional coaching is the support all children need in order to learn and practice resiliency.
What questions do you have around emotional coaching? In my upcoming live class we will be exploring the role emotional coaching has on raising children with self esteem as early as the toddler years. Join here.
About the author
Stephanie Wicker is a child behaviour expert, parenting educator, counsellor and speaker - who has successfully guided families through early childhood for over 15 years. Through her experience with private consultancy, as a preschool teacher and special needs therapist - she has worked across the many facets of early childhood behaviour.
Stephanie's evidence-based programs are grounded in behaviour science and her passion for Relational Frame Theory (RFT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and developmental psychology all play a big role in her programs.
Stephanie’s experience covers early intensive behaviour intervention programs for children with special needs and for families newly diagnosed. She hosts live training events all over Australia, where she shares her practical solutions and language techniques, along with providing private, in-home therapy sessions for those seeking more personalised support.
Through her company, Simply Kids she provides family resources such as digital books and educational activities, designed to keep behaviour simple.
"By helping parents place emphasis on connection, empowerment and encouragement, I believe that all children have the ability to reach their full potential." - Stephanie Wicker