May 28 , 2013
Did you know?
“Emotion coaching helps children regulate
their emotions and develop the ability to soothe themselves.”
– Winnie Keung, Psy.D., M.A., B.S.S.
The Why’s and Wherefores of Emotion Coaching
Now that we’re in an era where people put a lot of emphasis on grades and test scores, it has become more important to try our very best to help nurture and teach our children how to become emotionally intelligent individuals. Emotion coaching is all about helping your child learn about feelings, relationships, social behavior and the world around him/her. Emotion coaching helps children regulate their emotions and develop the ability to soothe themselves.
Children who are able to balance their positive and negative emotions well are rated by teachers to be more friendly and assertive and less aggressive and sad. Such children are also able to respond more pro-socially to peers’ emotions, and are seen as more likable by their peers. This emotional competency is thus important to help form and maintain friendships.
Parenting styles and the importance of emotion coaching
Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist who has studied parenting emotion philosophies identified three types of parents who fail to teach their kids emotional intelligence and they are:
- Dismissing parents, who disregard, ignore, or trivialise children’s negative emotions;
- Disapproving parents, who are critical of their children’s displays of negative feelings and may scold or punish them for emotional expression; and
- Relaxed parents, who accept their children’s emotions and empathise with them, but fail to offer guidance or set limits on their children’s behavior.
In contrast, parents who are able to validate and label their child’s emotions and model expressed emotions, are found to be related to a child’s ability to succeed in the preschool classroom.
It is noted that children who at age 5 receive emotion coaching, (i.e. the ability to talk about emotions while having them), are not overly emotional with their peers at age 8 because they have developed the skills to handle situations appropriately. These children are typically more aware of their emotions, and can regulate their upset feelings more easily through their actions and behaviours.
How can I emotion coach my child?
The key to effective emotion coaching is the strength of the relationship between you and your child.
Dr John Gottman and his research colleagues uncovered five steps in their studies of successful parent-child interaction:
- Acknowledge your children’s feelings.
- Help them to name the feelings, allow them to experience their feelings, and stay with them while they experience the feelings.
- Listen while trying not to divert their attention away from their feelings nor scold them for feeling that way.
- Respect their feelings and let them know that their feelings/wishes are valid.
- Set behavioral limits, discuss goals, and offer strategies to your child for dealing with situations that trigger negative emotions.
Before responding to your child, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “Will what I’m about to do help me connect with my child and help him/her cope better with similar situations both in the present and in the future?”
Connection and closeness are crucial to a strong parent-child relationship. It is the context for all your interactions.
Winnie Keung, Psy.D., M.A., B.S.S. is a Clinical Psychologist at HOME Psychological Services
May 23 , 2013
A Parent Perspective
“…the foundation – whether it’s strong or weak – is not really going to
change. So it’s all about the work you put into the first 6 years.”
– Dimitrios Kavvathas
The Journal catches up with Dimitrios Kavvathas, devoted father of Anastasia (2 years) and Ioannis (9 months) on his perspective as a parent. Mr. Kavvathas recently retired as a Partner at Goldman Sachs.
You are very passionate about the topic of early childhood development. What triggered this interest?
I’ve always taken a strong interest in how talent gets created, and how people get better at what they do. Nurturing my own children to becoming the best they can be represents the ultimate challenge to me in terms of effort and understanding in fostering the concept of self-improvement.
The imprint of a child is formed mostly at the early years and by 6 years of age there’s not much more you can really do. Yes of course there is a lot of hard work that needs to continue afterwards but the foundation – whether it’s strong or weak – is not really going to change. So it’s all about the work you put into the first 6 years. I can’t imagine anything more important than getting it right now.
The ‘foundation’ you referred to – what is that comprised of?
Foundation for me means everything surrounding one’s attitude and approach towards learning, to knowledge and to others around them.
What principle(s) guide your parenting philosophy?
I have a great passion for athleticism and there’s no better analogy better than how a professional athlete works or thinks to how I would want learning and education to work for a child.
What underpins fitness is discipline; the willingness to defer instant gratification for future success. You are constantly working hard for a goal that’s somewhere in the future; a sprinter might be training for 4 years just to excel at a 10 second race. One particular famous study by Walter Mischel, known as the Marshmallow Test sought to identify the most important predictors of success in life. Above anything else, virtues such as patience and self-control were found to be the most consistent predictors.
Does the pursuit of discipline come at the expense of happiness for a child?
I think the key is to find ways to help children develop their own discipline, not to force it upon them. Using sports again as an example, in the US a lot of children enjoy competitive sports and they naturally want to get better at what they do.
By promoting a similar attitude towards learning and education, I believe that a child can take a disciplined approach and find the process enjoyable.
What advice can you give to those who seek to balance work life with family life?
We can say all we want about attaining balance but we are not really attaining it. I’m not working for the time being, and it just makes me realize more how much can be done with the children. Having a disciplined program in place is a start to ensure that any time spent is focused on quality.
You’ve enjoyed considerable success in the world of finance. Are there any concepts from the business world that can be brought into the parenting world?
In the business world we often talk about the importance of being customer-centric. With education being one of the most important consumer products, how many educational institutions really consider what the needs are of its ‘customers’? This leads me to have some reservations on how the education system works both philosophically and practically in Hong Kong. I applaud SPRING for breaking the mold.
Lastly, you’re at a formal gathering with your children and they start crying uncontrollably. You have a matter of seconds to pacify them. What would you do?
I start by hugging them, holding them close to my head. In a slightly severe but constructive tone, I say (in Greek) “Please just stop this now, it is not helpful.”
There is firmness in the voice but with a bit of pleading as well, so whether they are in the mood to understand fear, or if they are more receptive in that moment to the pleading aspect, they can take it whichever way they want.
April 26 , 2013
Did you know?
“Play has loads of therapeutic benefits for a child and
provides an outlet to process emotions and experiences.”
Play as a vehicle for therapy
As parents, we usually understand how our children feel by watching them and how they act. It’s easy to tell when they’re happy and content, and they show us by being cheery and playful. When things are not going so well, our children may behave in ways that can cause problems and they are not always able to express what they are going through. We and other people such as teachers and other parents observe that the child may stop doing what they are told, or become excessively anxious or withdrawn.
Play can be a powerful platform to reach out to our children
Play is one of the most natural ways for children to understand their world, to learn about themselves and develop their social, emotional and physical skills. Children also use play to express feelings even before they develop the ability to communicate properly through language.
Just as the body heals from physical injury, a child has an emotional system that can be self-healing if certain conditions are present for the child. Play has loads of therapeutic benefits for a child and provides an outlet to process emotions and experiences.
Play Therapy is an approach used to help a child activate his or her innate self-healing abilities, and to support the child’s growth and development on an emotional and psychological level.
Play Therapy is used by therapists to help children experiencing all kinds of difficulties, ranging from experiencing single or multiple trauma; adjusting to family changes such as separation or divorce; feelings of aggression, excessive anger, fear, sadness, worry and shyness; chronic illness and hospitalisation; to sleeping and eating difficulties.
Children do not necessarily have to “talk out” their problems using words to feel better; children can communicate through the use of toys and art materials to release feelings and experiences. For example, children who see their parents fighting may use puppets to act out these conflicts. Play therapy can therefore be used directly, making use of role-playing and art to aid children to freely express the feelings they have difficulty saying and to develop and devise coping skills.
How can I assist my child to express and overcome their difficulties?
The role of parents or caregivers is extremely important in achieving the goals of Play Therapy. Filial Play (a form of Play Therapy) involves the child and parents or caregivers and therapist to strengthen family relationships and enhance attachment between a child and his or her parents.
In Filial Play, parents can learn the principles of Play Therapy and certain skills including how to create an open and accepting environment to improve the parent-child relationship. The effects of the supportive setting facilitated by a trained play therapist can be longer lasting – and help a child to develop appropriate ways of thinking and behaving.
Through Play Therapy, even the most complicated of problems can be discovered, rehearsed, mastered, and adapted into life-long strategies.