Raising an Emotionally-Intelligent Child

One of the books on my rather aggressive Lenten reading list is Raising an Emotionally-Intelligent Child by John Gottman. The book was published in 1997 and I actually read it shortly after that, mainly due to my interest in emotional intelligence.

I haven’t completely re-read it yet, but I have done a little reviewing. Based on research, Gottman says there are four styles of parenting — Dismissing, Disapproving, Laissez-Faire, and Emotion-Coaching. Those are fairly self-explanatory and the good one is pretty obvious.

A small part of the description of emotion-coaching is that an emotion-coaching parent …

  • respects the child’s emotions
  • does not poke fun at or make light of the child’s negative emotions
  • does not say how the child should feel
  • does not feel he or she has to fix every problem for the child (52)

The benefit of emotion-coaching is that children …

learn to trust their feelings, regulate their own emotions, and solve problems. They have high self-esteem, learn well, get along with others (52).

Gottman writes, “Emotion-Coaching parents serve as their children’s guide through the world of emotion” (63).

We want to be emotion-coaching parents, but we also know we have some growing to do. Due to the transition of bringing Sarah home from Korea, the last few months have been, and continue to be, pretty challenging. Reviewing/Re-reading this book comes at an important time (maybe Sarah was giving us a hint after all!).

Gottman describes five key steps that are part of the emotion-coaching process …

  1. Become aware of the child’s emotion.
  2. Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching.
  3. Listen empathetically, validating the child’s feelings.
  4. Help the child find words to label the emotion the child is having.
  5. Set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand.

The book includes a self-assessment to help parents determine their parenting style (81 True/False questions). There’s also a self-awareness assessment to help you take a look at your own emotional life (84 True/False questions).

The book also offers a lot of practical guidance. And the final chapter describes what emotion-coaching looks like with children from infancy to adolescence.

It’s a good book for parents and those interested in emotional health/intelligence.

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