Emotional Intelligence:
Coaching Our Children, Coaching Ourselves

Shoshona Pascoe, MFT

The ability to skillfully navigate the world of social skills and emotional understanding is a work in progress for most of us. Emotional Intelligence is a phrase that endeavors to enlarge the concept of valuable human traits and capacities. It is an IQ about people and the world of feelings. How can we as parents build on our children's innate orientation to the emotional world? What is intriguing to me is that research shows Emotional Intelligence to be a better indicator of success in life in a broad way as well as experiencing greater contentment. In today's world where learning in every way has been transformed by technology and social changes, there is a need to more consciously impart a skill reservoir to our children around emotional know-how.

Being an emotional coach is based upon recognizing challenging emotional states in our children as opportunities. This idea is based upon the model in John Gottman's book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; a book I recommend often to parents. When difficult emotional states, such as fear, sadness, and anger arise in our children, the impulse is often to try and change it immediately. And the desire to soothe, reassure, or set limits is important. The emotion coaching piece I find very useful adds an important first step: being with the emotion, though difficult, before trying to alter it and help. This being with feelings can be a close moment where the child feels seen and understood and becomes more open to our guidance. Here are the steps of Gottman's emotion coaching model:
  • Be aware of the feeling
  • Recognize it as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
  • Listen with empathy, validating feelings
  • Help the child be with their experience; help them find words
  • Set limits and help them strategize

The ability to be with our children in hard emotional states is directly related to our own ease with our fear, sadness, and anger. So as is often the case, as we mentor our children we grow and develop too. Helping our children develop wisdom and skill around emotional experience increases their ability to cope with anxiety, depression, loneliness, or bullying. Lack of impulse control, moody withdrawal, and dealing with the ups and downs of life all have core feelings at their base. The cultivation of Emotional Intelligence invites an integration between our vulnerable feeling self and our relatedness to others. Coaching deep interest and patient inquiry we model for our children a way to self-soothe in difficult times paired with an empowered way to be authentic in the world with others.

You'll find Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child at Amazon.com. Learn more about John Gottman at http://www.gottman.com.


©2005-2015 Shoshona Pascoe, Chinn Street Counseling Center; all rights reserved.