In The Science of Trust (2011), Dr. John Gottman identified two different types of parents: “emotion-coaching” parents and “emotion-dismissing” parents. Read Part 1 for the hallmarks of emotion-coaching versus emotion-dismissing parents.
Now that we’re clear about the differences, let’s talk about why it’s worth taking the time to implement emotion-coaching in your parenting repertoire of skills. How do kids benefit? The short answer is:
They have more emotional resilience and greater capacity for managing negative emotions. Beyond that, they are stronger when it comes to making healthy choices and functioning well in relationships!
In Gottman’s initial study, they followed 3 to 4-year-old children and found that the children who were emotion-coached differed significantly (when evaluated at ages 8 and 15) from their counterparts raised by emotion-dismissing parents.
Emotion-coached kids had:
- Higher reading and math scores at age 8, even controlling for IQ differences at age 4
- Better abilities with focusing attention, sustaining attention, and shifting attention
- Greater self-soothing ability
- Better delay of gratification
- Better impulse control
- Less negativity
- Less whining
- Fewer behavior problems of all kinds (aggression and depression)
- Better relations with other kids
- Fewer infectious illnesses
- More emotional intelligence as they developed
Kids who were given a chance to express negative emotions in a safe and healthy context, and with limits, actually grew to become less negative kids, who were better able to soothe themselves and make positive decisions.
I realize this may feel pretty counter-intuitive for many of us. In Part 3, we’ll discuss how to move from being an emotion-dismissing parent to an emotion-coaching parent. Part 4 will address how this impacts not only our parent-child relationships but also spouse/partner relationships!
Written By: Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC
Adapted from Gottman, J.M. (2011). The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Additional works that support and elaborate on these findings:
Havighurst, S., Wilson, K.R., Harley, A.E., & Prior, M. R. (2009). Tuning into Kids: An emotion-focused parenting program – initial findings form a community trial. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 1008-1023.
Christina Choi’s Boystown-orphanages experiments on emotion coaching in Seoul and Busan, with approximately 2,000 children.
Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (1999). Raising an emotionally intelligent child New York: Simon & Schuster.
Gottman, J., & Talaris Research Institute (2004). What am I feeling? Seattle, WA: Parenting Press