Making friends with Emotion Coaching

Updated: Jul 18

An ECUK practitioner trainer shares an example of how Emotion Coaching can support a young child to calm and use their social engagement system, paving the way for friendship...

A 3-year old boy (let's call him Sonny) wants a tricycle that another student is riding.


Sonny grabs the handle bars and pulls it towards him. He does this for a few minutes and refuses to let go.


The ECUK practitioner, 'Tamra', observes the interaction calmly, she knows Sonny very well and has developed a trusting relationship with him. From her observations, Tamra thinks Sonny might be feeling frustrated and determined.


Tamra approaches Sonny and shares her observation that it looks like he really wants the tricycle, and asks him if that's true. She also observes that it is difficult when someone has something we want, and that it can be difficult to wait our turn.


With these calm reflections, Tamra had attuned herself with Sonny at that moment in time and communicated an empathic response to him. She communicated to Sonny that she understood how and why he was feeling in this situation.


Sonny released the handle bars and ran crying into Tamra's embrace. They sat on a bench with Tamra holding him as he cried for quite some time. When he was calm and regulated, Sonny was able to sort out what he needed to do on his own; he got the sand-timer and told the other student they could use it to time each other's turns. The other child agreed, and happily shared the tricycle when their time was up.


Sonny felt 'safe' with Tamra and her empathic (rather than judgemental) response to the situation - where Sonny was forcefully trying to take a piece of equipment off another child - enabled Sonny to feel 'seen' and sufficiently 'secure' with Tamra so that she was able to 'soothe' him and this empowered him to be able to solve the problem for himself.


Tamra reflected how this incident was a measure of progress for Sonny. Previously, he would not allow or respond to any attempt by a teacher offering empathy or support. Tamra understood that consistent efforts were needed to build a trusting relationship with Sonny. It was wonderful that his social engagement with others had improved as had his ability to allow another person to help him to regulate his difficult feelings.


This example highlights the importance of building relationships with students over time and how when a child is soothed and calm, they are better able to problem solve on their own.


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