Research Paper By Samantha Castro
(Transformational Coach, THAILAND)
Emotional coaching: Helping children understand their emotions to create emotionally intelligent adults.
Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. — Margaret Mead
According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization (World Health Organization, 2018):
- Globally, depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability among all adolescents; anxiety is the eighth leading cause.
- Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19-year olds.
- Worldwide, it is estimated that 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet these remain under-diagnosed and under-treated.
- Childhood behavioral disorders are the sixth leading cause of disease burden among adolescents
- Worldwide, the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking among adolescents aged 15-19 years was 13.6% in 2016
- In 2016, based on data available from 130 countries, it was estimated that 5.6% of 15–16-year old's had used cannabis at least once in the preceding year. Many adult smokers have their first cigarette before the age of 18 years.
Statistics show us how the inability to handle and understand emotions has a significant impact on the growth and development of children into fulfilled adults. We are part of a society that until now has value, more than anything, what we so call intelligence.
Intelligence understood as
The whole of cognitive or intellectual abilities required to obtain knowledge, and to use that knowledge in a good way to solve problems that have a well-described goal and structure (Thiel, 2019),
has lead us to neglect the role emotions play in the successful application of that knowledge. The lack of emotional support children are facing has a direct relation to the struggle more, and more adolescents and adults are experiencing when faced with situations where emotions are involved. Among the different factors that impact our ability to handle emotions, two play a significant role. Most people do not know how to express their emotions, and in some cases, also fail to understand their feelings.
Dr Bruce Lipton, PhD, bestselling author of The Biology of Belief and recipient of the 2009 Goi Peace Award, explains that 95% of our life comes from the programs we get in the first seven years of life. Our programming is an unconscious behaviour that is passed on to us as children from our families and communities. After seven years old, if you want to reprogram the subconscious mind, repetition and practice are needed to make the new programming work. Once you have practised enough, you learn it, and the new program stays with you (Lipton, 2018).
In the coaching practice, it is said that regardless of the approach with which the coaching relationship starts (Business Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Health & Wellness Coaching, Career Coaching), all coaching becomes life coaching after the 3rd session. The coach understands that the first step toward growth and lasting change is to awaken the client’s understanding of the role his/her values, underlying beliefs, habits, behaviour, mindset and intention plays in his/her life. All these elements are part of the client’s perception of reality.
This research paper supports the idea that a strong emotional foundation set in children translates into happier, mature, successful adults. As such, Emotional Coaching presents itself as a tool to help children build emotional intelligence and create positive, long-lasting programming as well as support their development towards becoming more fulfilled adults (The Gottman Institute, 2018).
Literature and research supporting emotional coaching
Even though Emotional Coaching is a relatively new coaching niche, the practice has its roots on its more popular name and application in adults known as Emotional Intelligence.
Over the years, emotions have been a mostly unexplored scientific field. However, Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, explains:
…the scientific studies of emotion conducted over the past 30 years have seen an unparalleled burst. The glimpses of the brain at work have made visible one of the deepest mysteries of our time, understand how the brain operates while we think and feel, imagine and dream. The flood of neurological biological data let us understand more clearly the brain’s centres of emotions, and at the same time it offers new remedies for our collective emotional crisis (Goleman, 1996).
On his book, Goleman refers to a research conducted by Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at the Center for Neural Science at New York University, on the role the amygdala plays in the emotional brain. More specifically, LeDoux turns to the role of the amygdala in childhood. He says:
…the interactions of life’s earliest years lay down a set of emotional lessons based on the attunement and upsets in the contacts between infants and caretakers. Since these earliest emotional memories are established at a time before infants have words for their experience, when these emotional memories are triggered in later life, there is no matching the set of articulated thoughts about the response that takes us over. One reason we can be so baffled by our emotional outbursts, then, is that they often date from a time early in our lives when things were bewildering, and we did not yet have worlds for comprehending events (Goleman, 1996).
Goleman recognises that:
…much evidence testifies that people who are emotionally adept are at an advantage in any domain in life. People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering their mind to foster productivity. Childhood abilities such as being able to handle frustrations, control emotions and get on with other people make a great difference in their adult life. By encouraging children to develop a full range of the abilities that they will draw on to succeed or to be fulfilled with what they do, we are educating them in life skills (Goleman, 1996).
Another advocate of emotional intelligence and good parenting, John Bradshaw, in his book Home Coming, he explains that children need security and healthy modelling of emotions in order to understand their inner signals. They also need help in separating their thoughts from their feelings. Bradshaw warns us about the consequences of an unhealthy family environment and the neglection of children emotions by saying:
…when a child’s development is arrested, when feelings are repressed, especially the feelings of anger and hurt, a person grows up to be an adult with an angry, hurt child inside him. This child will spontaneously contaminate the person’s adult behaviour (Bradshaw, 1990).
According to Bradshaw, a hurt inner child sabotages adult life with one or more of the following displays:
- Offender Behaviours
- Narcissistic Disorders
- Trust Issues
- Acting out/Acing In Behaviours
- Magical Beliefs
- Intimacy dysfunctions
- Non-disciplined Behaviours
- Addictive/Compulsive Distortions
- Emptiness (apathy, depression)
Furthermore, in Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson, PhD and Richard Mendius, MD refer to research from Dan Siegel and Allan Schore on attachment models between children and caregivers. The authors say:
Your childhood relationships with primary caregivers – notably your parents – have probably had a great influence on your expectations, attitudes, emotions and actions in your important relationships as an adult. To summarise the research, the recurring experiences a young child has with her parents will lead to one of four models of attachment to them: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-anxious and disorganised. Attachment models tend to persist into adulthood and become the underlying, default template for important relationships (Hanson & Mendius, 2009)’.
Emotional coaching – origin’s
The idea of emotional coaching emerged after research conducted by Dr John Gottman at the University of Illinois and then at the University of Washington. For his research, Dr Gottman studied children between 3 to 15 years old and developed the concept of meta-emotion. The term refers to how people feel about emotion, specific emotions such as anger, emotional expression and emotional understanding in general (The Gottman Institute, 2019).
Research on emotion coaching, on the impact of marital discord, and the transition to parenthood are all elements of Gottman’s parenting research agenda. At the heart of these projects are the emotional lives of children and the emotional communication between parents and their children. As Gottman and his colleagues studied parents and children over time, they made a number of observations and discoveries about the powerful impact that emotional processes can have on children and their parents.
Much of today’s popular advice to parents ignores emotion,” says Dr Gottman. “Instead it relies on child-rearing theories that address children’s misbehaviour but disregards the feelings that underlie that misbehaviour. The ultimate goal of raising children should not be to have an obedient and compliant child. Most parents hope for much more for their children (The Gottman Institute, 2019).
Gottman’s research also discovered that love by itself was not enough. “We found that concerned, warm, and involved parents often had attitudes toward their and their children’s emotions that got in the way…when the child was sad or afraid or angry,” he writes.
The secret to being an emotionally intelligent parent lay in how parents interacted with their children when emotions ran hot (The Gottman Institute, 2019).
The researchers ultimately determined that successful parents tended to do five very simple things with their children when they were emotional. Gottman calls these five elements “Emotion Coaching.” He discovered that children who had “Emotion Coaches” for parents were on an entirely different, more positive developmental trajectory than the children of other parents (The Gottman Institute, 2019).
Further research by parentingcounts.org, shows that:
With Emotional Coaching, children develop a set of skills to self-soothe or calm down. Children are allowed to experience the full range of emotions. Children learn to understand how their feelings lead to their actions. Emotion Coaching helps children develop empathy. Empathy is the ability to identify and relate to the feelings or thoughts of another person. The ability to show empathy is predictive of future success in relationships at home, at school and work (Parenting Counts).
What is emotional coaching?
Emotional Coaching is a 5-step method that builds emotional intelligence and creates positive, long-lasting effects for children. Easy to learn, and used by parents, educators and caregivers, it supports kids through life’s ups and downs in a way that builds confidence and helps them grow socially, emotionally and intellectually (The Gottman Institute, 2018).
The five steps of emotion coaching (Parenting Counts).
Step 1: Be Aware of Emotions.
The more aware you are of your feelings, the better you will understand how your child is feeling. When appropriate, share your emotions with your child. Children are learning about emotions by watching how you show yours. Listen to your child for clues about what she is feeling.
Step 2: Connect with your Child.
Take your child’s emotions seriously. Be willing to understand your child’s perspective. Encourage your child to talk about feelings.
Step 3: Listen to your Child.
Listen to your child in a way that lets her know you are paying attention. Try not to judge or criticise emotions that are different from what you expected. Research shows that it is essential to understand the emotion before you advise the behaviour.
Step 4: Name Emotions.
Start identifying emotions even before a child can talk. Talk about emotions like happy, sad, and angry and when people feel them. Name a range of emotions. Talk about what these emotions mean and when people feel them. Avoid telling children what they ought to feel – try to identify the emotions they are feeling. Model identifying your own emotions – children learn by watching and copying what adults do.
Step 5: Find Solutions.
When children misbehave, explain why their behaviour was inappropriate or hurtful. Encourage emotional expression but set limits on behaviour. Help children think through possible solutions.
Emotional Coaching is a coaching niche with great potential to support children’s development to become emotionally intelligent adults. Such intelligence will support them through different areas of their life from personal to professional endeavours and make it easier for them to have a fulfilling life.
Emotional Coaching has to be taught to the parents before they can deliver it to their children adequately. Therefore, the benefits it offers extend to the parents, who learn to control and understand their emotions to set the example for their children, and at the same time, it provides a framework for a more effective and loving couple relationship.
Emotional coaching can very well be the first step toward healing and building a more loving, understanding, open society where we start to see more encouraging statistics on happiness, satisfaction, peace and fulfilment levels around the world.
Bradshaw, J. (1990). Home Coming. Reclaiming and healing your inner child. United States of America: Bantam Books.
Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2009). The practical neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain. Happiness, love and wisdom. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Lipton, D. B. (2018, September 20). Dr. Bruce Lipton Explains HOW WE ARE PROGRAMMED AT BIRTH (an eye-opening video). (L. R. Academy, Interviewer) Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TivZYFlbX8&feature=youtu.be
Parenting Counts. (n.d.). Information for parents: Emotion Coaching. Retrieved from parentingcounts.org: http://www.parentingcounts.org/parent-handouts/information-for-parents-emotion-coaching.pdf
The Gottman Institute. (2018). Emotional Coaching. The Heart of Parenting. Retrieved from emotioncoaching.gottman.com: https://emotioncoaching.gottman.com/
The Gottman Institute. (2019). Parenting. Retrieved from The Gottman Institute. A RESEARCH-BASED APPROACH TO RELATIONSHIPS: https://www.gottman.com/about/research/parenting/
Thiel, D. E. (2019, February 19). What is IQ? What is intelligence? Retrieved from 123 test. Free psychological tests: https://www.123test.com/what-is-iq-what-is-intelligence/
World Health Organization. (2018, September 18). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health