The 3- Step Parenting Skill Everyone Needs
Updated: Jun 4
Emotion coaching is a term that is used to describe a set of skills intended to support the behavioural and emotional well-being of children, adolescents and adults. Connecting when in conflict can help redirect behaviour and avoid or de-escalate a situation. The way it does this is by essentially disarming and regulating their emotion. Through constant and consistent emotion coaching, your child or partner begins to develop the capacity to manage their own emotions and will enhance the connection between you two. So what does this look like? Let's jump in.
Step 1: Learn to validate
Seems simple right? Not so much, especially in the heat of the moment! The first step in validating your loved one's emotions is to challenge yourself to understand what caused them to feel this way. It's normal for us to want to stop our loved ones from hurting by trying to look at the bright side or to guide them towards reason or logic, but this ends up backfiring and instead makes them feel defensive, wrong, or silly for feeling the way they feel.
For example, your loved one says, "I'm feeling anxious about this big test coming up."
You might feel tempted to respond with "it's okay, it's just one test, you'll do fine and if you don't it's not the end of the world!" Stop right there. Backtrack a bit, instead first, try to understand why they'd feel that way and validate it by confirming that it would make sense that this happens.
"I can understand why you might feel anxious about this big test because taking tests can be so nerve wracking"
Validating emotions has the ability to soften their intensity and can quite literally calm the emotional circuits in the brain. This is why this step is so crucial.
Step 2: Meet the emotional needs
Once you've validated your loved one's feelings you can shift towards offering them emotional support. Emotions are rooted in needs. Your emotions are your body's way of saying "hey, something is going on that you need pay attention to it!" For example, if your partner is sad, their emotional need might be comfort through a hug, kiss, or handhold. If they are angry, it's their body's way of signalling that their boundaries have been crossing and that this boundary needs to be acknowledged and/or they need space.
Let's take the above example...to respond to a big test as not a big deal and that it'll be okay is very fair reassurance. However, to respond to an emotion directly without validation just puts your reassurance to waste. Reassurance without validation is rarely effective. So after you've validated, try meeting the emotional need by saying "how can I support you right now, do you need a hug, comfort, a kiss, a venting session?"
Step 3: Meet the practical need
All you problem solvers out there...now is your time to shine! Many of us want to jump straight here when our loved one has a problem. Why wouldn't we, we want them to feel okay! Now remember, if you jump to step 3, you're likely going to be met with resistance or irritation from your loved one (unless they've explicitly asked for problem solving).
Once you've gone through validating the emotions and providing the emotional needs, you may want to look at practical solutions to help your loved one with this big exam. This can look like creating a quiet environment for them to study, making their meals, helping them study by testing them.
Give these three steps a try the next time your kiddo or loved one experiences a big emotion! Know that it's very natural for us to jump to step three, so take a deep breath, slow down, and go through the steps the best way you can. With practice and time you'll find yourself naturally inclined to go through the validation, emotional needs, and practical needs.