Imagine this – it is Sunday. You are just back from a fabulous holiday and the back to work dread has crept in. You moan to your partner, saying you wish you didn’t have to work tomorrow and how ready you are to quit that place. You KNOW you have to go, and that you will go, but you are looking for someone to carry the weight of that with you just for a bit. You know what you are saying is melodramatic and that you don’t actually mean it… but you just want to air it. Share it. Your holiday was tops and you are just having a little bit of difficulty transitioning.
Now image if your partner responded to you in the way he/she would respond to your kids. Saying things like:
- What do you mean you don’t want to go?
- We didn’t get you this far for you to go and GIVE UP!
- You need to suck it up, we just bought you new uniforms.
- I always wished I’d gotten the chance to do what you do and now am sorry I gave up. You HAVE to keep going.
- If you make it to end of term I will get you some PlayStation credit.
We just wouldn’t do it to each other, and yet we say versions of these all the time when our kids express having had enough of something. Our fear gland bulges out, we stop being useful alongside them and start trying to shoehorn those expressed feelings back into the box they just came out of.
Let’s go with the fact that sometimes kids will have great reason for ceasing an activity. Let’s also go with the fact that they are going to air those thought more often then they will take action. Just like us.
So, our job is to hear them. Not just hear their words, but hear how it is to be them. To not jump in trying to douse their flames. Just sit with them in the burn for a bit.
If we can step into their shoes for a minute, it will save us so much time, effort, wasted money and all the frustration that comes with jumping in too early on someone who is just talking out loud about how they are feeling.
Because, things escalate when someone doesn’t feel heard. They take a stance, then they take a stronger stance. Next thing it has become a ‘thing’ and everyone is exasperated.
This is where emotion coaching comes in and is super useful. Let’s go back to the not wanting to go to work example. Imagine if instead your partner said:
- Oh geez, wasn’t it a great holiday? (big pause- enjoying the memory for a bit)
- I see why you wouldn’t want to go back. Your desk cubical certainly doesn’t trump swimming in the Mediterranean. (acknowledging)
- I can see in your body how much you wish you could give our passports another whirl at customs -let’s do it. Let’s no-show at work tomorrow. If we get a flight now we can be in Athens by the time they miss us. (using humour)
- Ok seriously, what do you need to be able to front tomorrow? Want me to get Uber Eats to drop you a Mediterranean salad for lunch? (asking how they would like your support to do what needs to be done)
See how that feels so different? Emotion coaching involves tuning in with someone, sitting in their feelings to have them know you are hearing them and then strong feelings often just dissipate or lessen. I see this as the most central part of managing our own and others behaviour. If we indulge a little short term, we don’t get nearly as bent out of shape and need bigger interventions. And actually, even during bigger interventions Emotion coaching is our best shot to de-escalate emotion.
Emotion coaching is a key part of the 123 Magic and Emotion Coaching program that I have been running a lot of lately. You can see Love Parenting (and other organisation parenting program offerings) at www.resourcingparents.nsw.gov.au
I look forward to being usefully alongside you if you would like that as you tweak what you provide your growing youngsters.