Moms, high fives, you survived!!! I hope you’re pouring yourself a hot coffee or cup of tea. How are you doing? It’s been a brutally cold snap across the country, which means lots of cabin fever. For those of you, with me in Chicago, schools have been closed three days this week. THREE DAYS.
Anyone else have some parenting “moments” over the last few days? Just in case, I thought I’d share with you some nuggets from my most recent talk at MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) at Willow Creek North Shore.
In a nutshell, we talked about how to calm your kids down when they’re really emotional. The technical term is called “Emotional Coaching.” And it’s practically magic. Honest.
So what is “Emotional Coaching”, and why should you care?
Thanks to the brilliant research in John Gottman’s “The Heart of Parenting” you don’t have to take my word for it. We have amazing, dramatic results to show why you should care about “emotional coaching.”
The kids who were raised with “emotional coaching” were performing better at school, friendships, health (yes! I said health, they actually got sick less often), focus, relating to people, they could sooth themselves and these kids could even calm their hearts down faster.
What is it? Emotional Coaching is basically a way of helping kids understand and acknowledge their feelings. Not fixing. Not talking them out of it. Not correcting them (“you don’t really hate your sister“) Just allowing them to have their feelings. Know their feelings. And sit with their feelings.
One of the easiest tools we describe this with our clients is called “Name It To Tame It.” This is easy and important! Here’s how it works. You actually point out what you think your kids are feeling or ask them to name what they are feeling. When you do that, it changes their brain activity. Feelings happen in an unconscious part of the brain (right lobe) and when you use language, it uses the logical part of the brain (left lobe). Poof! All of the sudden, your uncomfortable feelings become something you can understand, something that’s normal and part of everyday life. It soothes the brain. Name it to tame it.
Here’s how it might work (hypothetically speaking, of course!). Your kid is throwing a tantrum. You look at them and say, “You seem really mad right now.” Or, “You are so frustrated right now. I get it.” “You upset this isn’t fair.”
Then, here comes the magic part. Are you ready? Take a deep breath. You don’t say anything. You just sit with your kid. Be next to them. Listen to them if they are talking. Maybe rub their back (but if they push your hand away, respect their space).
You don’t punish. You don’t send them away. You just be with them while they calm themselves down. If they want to go to their room or some other place, you let them. The key is that you letting the child figure out how to handle their uncomfortable feelings. You are just helping them to understand themselves.
Some other ways to handle your kids when they are expressing negative feelings (anger, sadness, fear) is to simply listen quietly and attentively. Acknowledge their feelings with one word (oh….mmm.. I see….) or use fantasy (I wish I could make that banana ripe for you, right now!).
The key here is that you are not solving it for them. You are just along the ride with them. It is not our job to fix our kids. It is not our job to make sure our kids’ lives are easy, smooth and pain-free. Your child has a journey, with lessons, mistakes and wins that they are meant to have. Think for a moment about where you learned all your good lessons. It wasn’t in the easy parts, it was from your own struggles. You There is a plan for your child, a good one. Your job is just to be with them along the way.
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Lauren Schifferdecker is a TEDx speaker, author of “Inspire Your Life” ebook, and owner of Inspire Counseling Center. She’s a real mom, entrepreneur and loves to inspire people to live their best life. You can get her free e-book and inspiring newsletters via www.inspirecounselingcenter.com