You know those moments where you hear the right thing at the right time and you’re just like, “YES! I needed to hear that today?” They have a markedly less attractive sibling: moments where you hear perfectly reasonable, well intentioned information at emphatically not the right time.
Suppose you’ve had an awful day so you treat yourself to pizza, beer, and trashy TV. And it’s not just the “Hey, it’s Friday, so why not?” kind of treating yourself. You NEED this slothful evening like you need oxygen because it hasn’t just been a day. It’s been a DAY. And just as the pizza delivery guy knocks at the door a friend calls up and goes on about how modern television consumption is intellectual death but, hey, maybe that’s not such a big deal because what do the finer points of critical reasoning matter when we’re a nation of heart diseased diabetics with beer guts.
Is your friend right? Sure. Eating junk food while sitting on your butt guzzling booze is not a healthy choice. But even though you know that you still think, “Eff you for hating on my “Scandal” and IPA, much cherished friend. EFF. YOU.”
You know you shouldn’t be mad that someone is spewing sense much less be mad at the sense they’re spewing itself but you feel stabby anyway.
That’s me today with parenting tips.
After having a DAY I attended a parent meeting that centered around John Gottman’s “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child.”
Here are Gottman’s five elements of emotion coaching interspersed with examples from my day:
1. Be aware of your child’s emotions.
Child: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Mooooooooooooooooooooooom! WAAAAAAAH!
Me: Okay. So: check. I’m aware that you’re upset. To be fair, I was aware 34209 WAAAAH’s ago but still. Go me!
2. Recognize emotional expression is an opportunity for intimacy and teaching.
Me: I see that you’re upset. I’m sorry you’re feeling like that. Would you like to tell me what’s up?
Child: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! My friend says her cat says that I can’t have my favorite color be pink any more and I want ketchup on everything! You don’t seem 100% focused on this while you’re merging into rush hour traffic. Worst mom ever! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Me: Okay, so… this is an opportunity for learning. Let’s take a deep breath and…
Child: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
3. Listen empathetically and validate your child’s feelings.
Me: ::: series of sage nods accompanied by concerned frowns and supportive noises :::
Child: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
4. Label emotions in words your child can understand.
Me: Okay. So, again, I hear that you’re upset.
Child: OF COURSE I’m upset, Mama! I’m frustrated. Annoyed. ::: stamps foot, pouts ::: I. feel. very. ANGRY. FURIOUS.
Me: Allow me to compliment you on your vocabulary.
Child: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
5. Help child come up with a way to solve the problem or deal with an upsetting situation or issue.
Me: Let’s brain storm a solution: maybe your friend’s cat doesn’t actually have influence over your favorite color and you can have ketchup on some things but not everything.
Child: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Me: Oh my God. Seriously, kid? Mommy is getting a migraine. Work with me here.
Child: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Dr. Gottman and disciples, I get it. Really I do. And I applaud you for your wisdom and common sense. But you know what? Today you need to keep a wide berth because I’m gonna go ahead and skip enlightened emotion coaching in favor of, “Hey! I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you play on the i-Pad until your father gets home?”