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What's your Meta Emotion Philosophy?


This reflective log is a reminder of how important it is to understand your own beliefs and attitudes to emotions when practicing Emotion Coaching.

Jasper had been making a model in the woodworking area when the bell rang for tidy up time.

He started crying and saying 'no!'.

Amaja told him that it was time to stop playing and tidy up. He went inside with Amaja but his crying increased in pitch and intensity.

Amaja felt annoyed and impatient as Jasper was familiar with the routines of the setting but still frequently got very upset about things that seem quite minor. She noticed her own annoyance and realised that this was a habit that she was in with this child.

This is part of Emotion Coaching's 'Step 1' (Notice and Empathise), being a 'STAR' for the distressed child: Stopping, Thinking, Attuning, Reflecting.

Amaja checked in with herself, then took a deep breath and tried to see the situation from Jasper's perspective. She tried to really take on board how it would make her feel.

Amaja thought that Jasper was feeling a mixture of disappointment in having to stop his project, as well as anger that he couldn't do what he wanted to do. This helped her move on to 'Step 2' (Label and Validate).

To show she was listening to Jasper with her whole body, Amaja crouched down in front of him and held both his hands as she said: "You're feeling really disappointed as you were enjoying making your model and wanted to finish it. I would feel disappointed too if someone said I had to stop doing something that I wanted to finish. It must have made you feel a bit angry, too, that it's tidy time."

In this situation, Amaja felt 'Step 3' (Set Limits) was important, and combined that with 'Step 4' (Problem Solve). She restated: "We do have to tidy up now. Could we make time for you to finish your model later? I know it is important to you.”

Amaja acknowledges that it was not a 'shared' way of problem solving, but she did not impose the proposed solution. It was appropriate for the time and place.

Although the tears kept flowing, Jasper listened to what Amaja said and he began to quieten down. He agreed that he could continue after lunch. It took Jasper another five minutes or so to really calm down.

Amaja's reflection on the interaction and the dynamic was particularly insightful. She said that Jasper gets very upset frequently and she has really struggled to empathise with him - which she notes is unusual for her.

Her thoughts turned to her own Meta Emotion Philosophy and childhood experiences around emotions. Jasper is quite needy and really feels small things in a big way. Amaja's parents would label this as ‘whinging, or whining’ and would always dismiss or even mock this behaviour.

Amaja realised that she had failed to take time to really understand how he was feeling and often interpreted this behaviour from Jasper as being manipulative or controlling.

She was surprised at how quickly Jasper could regulate if she made time to validate him as well as set limits.

On reflection, Amaja felt sad for Jasper as she thinks it's an experience that he repeats with lots of adults.

Amaja was determined to be much more observant of her own emotional reaction and to probe it to see where that assumption or belief has come from.

A reminder that Emotion Coaching is not something that is 'done' to a child. Emotion Coaching is very much something we do 'with' a child - we're learning about emotions together.

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