In Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, Dr. John Gottman cautions against three types of parenting styles:
1) Dismissing parents, who marginalize their children’s emotions
2) Disapproving parents, who are critical of their children’s emotions
3) Laissez-faire parents, who accept whatever emotions their children display but set no limits for those displays
None of these styles positively integrates the natural emotions of children into healthy parenting. If you dismiss your children’s emotional states, you dismiss your children, and your ability to influence them diminishes also. If you constantly express disapproval of your children, you crush their spirit. They will either reject you or rebel against you. If you adopt an “anything goes” attitude toward your children’s emotions, you deny them the opportunity to learn to regulate their emotional states. None of these teaches your child emotional responsibility.
Children need to test out their emotions. They need to experience them, express them, and learn to deal with them. How you react emotionally is being observed and factored into this amazing learning process. I have dealt with innumerable people who were shut down emotionally by their parents as children. These individuals struggle for years and must retrace their childhood steps in order to get back on the right path emotionally. I have also dealt with people who were taught by example to express whatever emotion they felt in whatever way they chose. Their family and friends generally find them to be unsafe and abusive. These individuals also must learn anew how to relate to other people.
Don’t be afraid of your children’s emotions. Be alert to them. Learn from them, and model back to your children healthy emotional responses.
Ask God to help you personally integrate and model emotional responsibility.
SOURCE: Chapter 7, “R is for Responsible for My Emotions,” in Healthy Habits, Healthy Kid: A Practical Plan to Help Your Family by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.
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