Parenting Counts is a product of Talaris Institute.


Four Parenting Styles

When dealing with the up-and-down world of emotions, your children naturally take their cues from you. That’s why it’s helpful to look at the different ways we parent. With the help of Dr. John Gottman and other researchers, we can identify four different parenting styles, one of which is Emotion Coaching. Emotion Coaching is a parenting technique that can help you deal with your children’s emotional moments. No parent is an Emotion Coach all of the time. In fact, on any given day, you might use all four parenting styles. The key is to recognize that the way you parent has a profound impact on your children’s emotional development and behavior.
So let’s examine the different parenting styles and how they affect children.

The Dismissing Style – “Just get over it!”
Dismissing parents tend to avoid or dismiss emotions. Their motto is “Just get over it.” By ignoring emotions, they often miss the opportunity to connect when a child needs them most. To handle the child’s emotions they:

  • Tell the child there is no reason to be sad.
  • Suggest that the child’s own feelings aren’t to be trusted.
  • Dismiss their own emotions and discourage the child from sharing feelings.

The Disapproving Style – “You shouldn’t feel that way!”

Disapproving parents believe that expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. They disregard or suppress their emotions and treat their child’s feelings negatively. Disapproving parents tend to believe that:

  • Negative emotions are a waste of time, reveal bad character, and must be controlled.
  • Children use negative emotions to manipulate their parents.
  • Emotions make people weak, and a child needs to be tough to survive.

The Laissez-Faire Style – “Anything goes!”

Laissez-faire is a French term that means “let it be.” Laissez-faire parents teach their children that all emotions are accepted no matter how the child behaves. This style fails to help children understand emotions or learn how to manage them. Children raised with this “anything goes” approach:

  • May lack the ability to calm down when they are angry, sad, or upset.
  • Find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new skills.
  • May not do as well in school.
  • May not pick up on social cues and may find it harder to make friends.

Emotion Coaching – “Empathize and guide.”

Emotion Coaching involves teaching children how emotions work, especially when emotions are the strongest. Emotion Coaching values all feelings—but not all behaviors. Becoming an Emotion Coach takes time and practice, but in the long run, research shows that it is worth it. Children who have been raised by parents who Emotion Coaching have some big advantages:

  • They get along better with others.
  • They form stronger friendships with other children.
  • They can manage their own emotions.
  • They calm themselves down more quickly when they get upset.
  • They get sick less often.

Here are the five steps of Emotion Coaching:

Step 1 – Be aware of emotions.
Step 2 – Connect with your child.
Step 3 – Listen to your child.
Step 4 – Name emotions.
Step 5 – Find good solutions.

Don’t expect to Emotion Coach all of the time. Sometimes you don’t have the time or the private moment to stop long enough to coach your child. When you can, however, Emotion Coaching shows your child that you value his or her emotions.