As Dr. Gottman states:
You can only create KINDNESS in children by treating the child in a kindly manner.
You can only create RESPECT in children by treating the child respectfully.
You can only create EMPATHY in children by treating the child with compassion.
We aim to foster emotional intelligence within our children, following the five principles of Dr Gottman’s emotion coaching methods:
- Be aware of a child’s emotions
- Recognise emotional expression as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
- listen empathetically and validate a child’s feelings
- label emotions in words a child can understand.
- help a child come up with an appropriate way to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting issue or situation.
With this they:
- are able to regulate their emotional states
- are better at soothing themselves when they are upset
- can calm down their hearts faster after an upsetting incident
- have fewer infectious illnesses
- are better at focusing attention
- relate better to other people, even in tough situations like getting teased in middle school
- are better at understanding people
- have better friendships with other children
- are better in school situations that require academic performance.
Children might struggle to acquire social skills; it is normal to feel aggrieved if someone steals your toy; and not unheard of for a three year old to respond with violence or outrage.
Helping them to manage the strong feelings requires empathy and respect, not methods of shaming or harsh discipline.
Whilst you might hear an enthusiastic “You did it!” or “I saw how you managed that all by yourself!” our groups are noticeably lacking in “Well dones” from the adults, not because we don’t want to share in our children’s pleasure at their achievements, but because we don’t want to subvert their reason for trying from self satisfaction to pleasing us. Evidence shows that praising achievement actually makes children less secure as attention appears to be contingent upon success. We also want our children to feel that achievement is a product of effort and hard work; saying “Aren’t you clever!” sets them up for self doubt if they com across a subject that they struggle with, rather than seeing it as a hurdle to overcome by setting their mind to solving the problem. We do not, therefore, praise achievement or use rewards such as star charts and stickers to incentivise our children. This approach is borne out by convincing research; form more information read Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting or his thoughts on grades in schools.
Accordingly, we do not encourage competition between children, preferring cooperative games and activities. As before, see the work of Alfie Kohn for evidence and compelling arguments on this topic.
Where conflicts arise between adults, we prefer to discuss them using an approach some term Non Violent Communication or NVC, but which are also universally recognisable as compassion and the art of listening and speaking without judgment, blame or aggression. This is not only to minimise the potential for discord and ill feeling within the group but also to model empathy and compassionate communication to our children.
Our community group does not have any religious affiliations nor do we give any religious instruction to the children, no matter what out beliefs are, leaving this instead up to individual families.