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Helping Children Learn to Self-Regulate to Improve Behavior

By Abby Jo Robertson, Intern & Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professorlittle girl holding up a smiley face and a frowny face

 In today's society, there are thousands upon thousands of different resources available for parents on how to help their children, and to be honest, it can be kind of overwhelming. Parents may feel a great deal of pressure to raise the future generation, and to help shape them to be the best they can be (Litisa, 2012). Parents are given overwhelming amounts of information that is just simply not true or relevant to their children, including information about their emotions.

Washington State’s Psychology Researcher, John Gottman, researched the idea of “good parenting,” and eventually concluded that good parenting begins with the idea of Emotion Coaching. According to Gottman, “the ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient and compliant child...the secret to being an emotionally intelligent parent lies in how parents interact with their children when emotions run hot,” (Knott, 2016).

Emotion Coaching is a five step method to help parents learn about their child’s range of emotions. With proper emotion coaching, children learn to form stronger friendships with other children, calm themselves more quickly, do better in school, handle their moods better, and get sick less often, (Knott, 2016). The Emotion Coaching process is broken down into five steps, which are:

1. Be Aware of Emotions - It is important to understand that emotions are a natural and valuable part of life, (Knott, 2016). Parents need to tune into their children's feelings, as well as their own. It is also important to note that when it’s appropriate,parents should also share their emotions with their children.

2. Connect with Your Child - Emotional moments are the perfect opportunities to connect with your children. As parents we must always remember to take our children’s emotions seriously, and to be willing to understand things from their perspective. We should always encourage our children to talk about their feelings! (Knott, 2016).

3. Listen to Your child - The best way to show our children that we care and respect their feelings is by taking the time to listen to them. As parents, we should also try to not judge or criticize their emotions if they are different from what we expected them to be. We should also take the time to understand their emotions before we try and give them advice.

4. Name Emotions - Helping our children identify and name their emotions is an easy way to help them understand exactly what they are feeling. As parents, we should also name our own emotions and talk about them with our children.

5. Find Good Solutions - Exploring solutions to problems with our children when they misbehave helps them identify their feelings and explain their behavior. The ability to explain their behavior encourages them to change and think of better ways to react. It is important to remember that we should encourage emotional expression, but also set limits on behavior so that things don’t get out of hand.