The most balanced and serene children, the most self-confident, the best at school and also the happiest, are those with the most developed emotional intelligence. That is, that intelligence that underlies self-control, attention to others and empathy.
These are the results of a study, which lasted several years, carried out by the American psychologist John Gottman. Another important finding of Gottman's research is that this intelligence is not innate, but it can be learned. And the best teachers are parents, who can become real emotional coaches.
"Our studies show that emotionally trained children perform better in school, do better health, and establish more positive reactions with peers. They also have fewer behavior problems and are able to recover more quickly after negative experiences. Emotional intelligence enables them. to be more prepared to face the risks and challenges of life "says the psychologist.
Starting from this discovery Gottman, in the book "Emotional Intelligence for a Child" (Bur), has developed a guide to teaching parents to become good emotional coaches for their children.
The concept of emotional training is based on the ability to identify with our children, to feel empathy towards them. "Unfortunately, emotional training doesn't come naturally to all parents just because they love their children," says Gottman.
The parent coach is that parent who always manages to put himself in the shoes of the child, who sees an opportunity for growth in emotions, even negative ones, and who consequently manages to manage moments of crisis with greater patience, accepting and listening to all feelings of the child including anger, sadness, fear, without minimizing, underestimating or mocking these emotions.
Sure though he is not a permissive parent: he accepts feelings, but not behaviors, which if wrong must be corrected. Although Gottman tends to argue that emotionally trained children end up behaving better than children of overly permissive or overly authoritarian parents for three reasons:
1) Children who feel that their parents understand them and are genuinely interested in their life do not need to act and make scenes to get their attention;
2) Emotionally trained children from an early age learn to calm down on their own and are able to relax even under stress;
3) The emotional bond between parents and children becomes closer and children are more receptive to parental requests, they are more willing to please than to disappoint.
In his guide Gottman explains how to become good emotional coaches in five steps:
1) First of all try to understand if behind the wrong behavior of a child there is a discomfort, such as jealousy between siblings, a difficult school placement ...
When a child is angry, tense, scared, the parent must make an effort to identify with him and understand what may have generated this emotion. A three-year-old child cannot say "I'm sorry Mom for being boring and capricious, but the transfer to the new kindergarten has stressed me a lot" ... It is therefore the adult's job to try to understand what's behind it and look at the switchboard.
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Maybe a child behaves badly because he is jealous of his little brother, or he is tense about entering the nursery, maybe he is frightened because he has heard a quarrel between his parents or has breathed some tension in the family. “When you find yourself feeling what your child is feeling, you are experiencing empathy, which is the foundation of emotional training. When you are tuned into your child's emotion, you can move on to the next stage.
When your child breaks down in tears, or is angry or boring, instead of getting nervous and overwhelmed by negative emotions, rest assured and think of this moment as a great opportunity to train your child emotionally. Another attitude absolutely to avoid is to ignore or belittle negative emotions thinking that they pass by themselves or that they are not important. Instead, children need to learn to understand what they feel hearing from their parents and in order not to grow up with insecurities they need to feel understood.
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Gottman's advice is to learn to recognize emotions before they lead to crisis. Try to solve problems together before they erupt. For example, if your baby is tense about the next dental visit, it is better to talk about this fear the day before the visit and not wait for the crying crisis in the dental office; If a child breaks a toy, immediately show interest and concern, so he will learn that you are allies and can cooperate and will avoid making a scene.
When you are well aware that your child's moment of crisis is an opportunity to teach and solve problems, then you are ready for the most important phase: empathic listening. Sit at his height, talk in a relaxed way, take the time, show you understand what he is feeling and avoid criticism. The most important thing at this stage is to recognize the feelings of the children and not to give solutions or contradict them by thinking of minimizing a problem.
For example: a mother sees her little girl sad and asks her what she has. The child says that her friends no longer play with her during her break. Her mother would instinctively tell her not to worry and to play with others. But this would be like saying that hers is a futile problem and diminishing her daughter's emotion of sadness. To be empathetic, the mother must listen carefully to her daughter's story, investigate what she is feeling by asking questions, such as: "This problem makes you sick, doesn't it?".
An extremely important phase of emotional training is to help children name the emotions they are experiencing. “Providing children with words can help them transform an amorphous and unpleasant sensation into something definable and therefore with very specific boundaries, like any other normal element in daily life. Anger, sadness and fear thus become expressions common to all and that everyone is able to manage. " says Gottman.
“The child thus not only feels understood, but now he also has a word to define his state of mind”. Specific studies have shown that naming emotions has a calming effect on the nervous system and helps children to get out of troubled situations more quickly. So to be a good emotional coach you need to help the little ones develop a vocabulary with which to express emotions. Continuing with the example above, after having listened to the story of the little girl, the mother can say "I too would be hurt if my friends behaved like this", "I understand that you are sad".
Also read 11 tips to train children's intelligence
After recognizing the emotion behind wrong behavior, putting yourself in the child's shoes, helping him to give a name to what he feels, now you have to make him understand that even if the negative feeling and emotion are understandable, certain behaviors are unacceptable. . It is in fact the parents' duty to set limits on whims and wrong or dangerous behaviors.
For example: “You are angry that your friend took your toy from you. I'd be angry too. But it's not okay to hit him. What could you do instead? " or “It's okay to feel jealous of your sister. But it's not okay to tell her those bad things. Can't think of another way to deal with these feelings? ”.
Gottman recommends that in picking up a child, the parent acts firmly but without harming the child's dignity. Therefore to be avoided spanking and other humiliating punishments. Temporary exclusion can work (moving the child away until he has calmed down) but you have to do it with a lot of sensitivity, so without using abrupt attitudes or screams.
Once you have stopped the baby's screaming and crying, you need to help him solve the problem.
First of all ask the child what he would like. “It is important, however, to refrain from overly pressing intervention. If you really want your child to master the conclusions, you should encourage him to generate his own ideas ".
To help a small child find the solution to the problem that afflicts him on his own you could play a fantasy game, how to use dolls and script the two versions of a solution (the right one and the wrong one). For example: two dolls may be involved in the fight over a toy. In the first scenario, the doll grabs the toy without even asking. In the second, the doll asks to be allowed to take the toy and offers the other doll to play together.
With older kids you can get together to think of different solutions, too write a list on a piece of paper and then cross out the ones he doesn't like.
One technique to help visualize a solution is to establish relationships between past and future triumphs. “You can remind him of a goal already achieved and then encourage him to visualize it, trying to achieve something new with similar success ”.
For example, a child who does not like to go to the nursery because she is not happy playing with a partner, you can say: “I see that this problem makes you feel bad ... Do you remember any other time that you have felt this way? ". The child might reply: "Yes, when a friend pulled my hair". At this point she can be asked what she had done in that situation, in this way the child visualizes how she had successfully solved that problem and helps her find a similar solution.
Once a child proposes one or more solutions, you could help him evaluate which is the right one by asking him: "Do you think it will work?" “How do you think you feel afterwards? How will others feel? ”.
Useful it is tell how you faced similar problems as children and what you learned from that experience.
Finally, if your child favors a solution that is wrong for you, but still harmless, let him put it into practice. Like this if he fails you can encourage him to try another opportunity. Furthermore, the wrong solution of a problem helps children to analyze their mistakes and the little ones learn a lot from their mistakes.
Updated on 01.02.2022TAG:
- children education
- the feelings of children
- emotions in children
- how to deal with the negative emotions of children
- 3-5 children years