In an age of widespread divorce and troubled kids, many parents want to make sure they raise emotionally healthy, connected children but don’t know how to do that. John Gottman, Ph.D. has synthesized the results of years of academic research and parenting to produce a guide to the emotional health and well-being of children, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Just as a child can have intellectual skill with numbers and math or words and poetry, there is a skill to recognizing and dealing effectively with emotions. This is what Gottman calls Emotional Intelligence, and he dedicates most of his book to teaching a set of skills called Emotion Coaching.
Emotion Coaching is basically a process of actively listening to a child’s emotional responses, validating their feelings and providing guidelines, limits and helping him problem-solve in order to constructively deal with those emotions. Gottman claims that children who have more emotional intelligence get better grades in school, recover from stressful situations more quickly, learn how to soothe themselves and have better physical health than children who aren’t able to recognize and deal with their emotions.
How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child
Gottman’s approach to Emotion Coaching comes from years of experience as a psychologist and researcher, so in teaching about emotional awareness or parenting styles he includes several self-tests to clarify default parenting styles compared to the Emotion Coaching style. Gottman’s writing includes many examples of parent-child interaction and has a smooth, easy to read style as well as references to psychological research that backs up the benefits of Emotion Coaching. For a resource that focuses less on learning why Emotion Coaching works and more on simply learning how to do it, check out How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish.
Unique Perspective on Fathers and Marriage
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child seems to overlap with other parenting books on the market, such as How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort. All these books share a focus on active listening and validating emotions, although each has strengths and weaknesses based on style and organization. While Faber and Mazlish have excelled at creating a “workbook” for parents that is designed explicitly to teach these skills, Gottman’s previous books on marriage bring a focus on the role of fathers and the impact of marital conflict on children that is unique and relevant to today’s families.
Emotional health and intelligence is like the keel on a boat, something that can help you sail through stormy seas and high winds. Learning how to hear and respond to a child’s emotions not only benefits the child’s social and physical well-being, but will benefit relationships with partners, friends and co-workers. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is written for parents of children of all ages, and is a useful tool for parents to use in their daily interactions with their children.
Originally published on Suite101.com on June 23, 2009
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