• Julie Cresswell

One small mistake which might be stopping you from connecting with your child in the tricky moments

If you’re a parent trying to show your child understanding and empathy in the heat of the moment but feel like it’s not going very well it might be helpful to ask yourself “Am I connecting with their thoughts or their feelings?” If your child is making statements such as “it’s not fair” or “you always give him more than me” or “I not going to school” they’re telling you their thoughts and it’s important to hear them, but it’s not the most helpful place to start.

Connection; bond with your child

You may find it hard to not start trying to reason with them. Hearing them tell you it’s not fair when you know it damn well is can be intensely frustrating. And they‘re probably not be in a state of mind where they can reason. So you try to be understanding, but the conversation doesn’t really make any headway. If you can pause connect with the feelings which are fuelling those thoughts instead then this where you can begin to help them calm and move things forward (although it may be a while before you can have a fully reasonable conversation). But if they’re only expressing their thoughts how can you know what they are feeling? Perhaps they don’t even know. Surely it’s just guesswork and you don’t want to put words into their mouth? This is where “I wonder” questions are brilliant. “I wonder if you’re feeling frustrated?” “I wonder if you’re feeling a bit sad?” “I wonder if you’re worried about going to school today?” You are offering ideas and understanding with plenty of room for them to correct you if you’re way off. You’re seeking to connect with the emotion first. Whilst it may not bring immediate calm and total cooperation it will start to move you forward as they begin to feel seen and heard at that deeper level.

Coaching question; cognitive triangle; connection with emotion; emotion coaching

This is not a quick one off trick – teaching children emotional language and understanding takes time and you might find it feels a bit clunky for you too if it’s not how you were raised, but asking yourself “Am I connecting with their thoughts or their feelings?” might just be the helpful tweak needed in those tricky moments.


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Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

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