What is emotion coaching?

In the Tuning In To Kids programme, there is a process called “emotional tuning”. The steps are:

1. Notice the emotion

Notice how you think your child is feeling. It’s ok if you guess incorrectly, your child will usually tell you what he or she is feeling if you approach it this way.


Parent: “You look really sad today, your head is down and your shoulders are hunched over”.

Child: “I spilt my drink bottle on my shorts at recess. I had to get some new pants from the office, but they are too big. I had to hold them up all day.”

2. Clarify with a question

A question will help your child figure out how he or she feels.

Parent: “How did you feel about having to hold your pants up all day?”

Child: “Frustrated, because I couldn’t run properly at lunchtime. And embarassed too.” (He has a great emotional vocabulary.)

3. Reflect the emotion

Reflect the emotion your child is telling you or state what you believe your child is feeling.

Parent: “I can see why you would be frustrated and embarassed about that.”

4. Locate the emotion in the body

Emotions can be felt in the body and the head. Part of emotional intelligence is recognising when you are starting to feel a strong emotion by noticing what your body is doing and what your mind is thinking.

Parent: “Where in your body do you feel your frustration?”

5. Empathise

Talk about how you would feel in the same situation.

Parent: “Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you, I would have felt the same if I had to hold my pants up all day and couldn’t keep up with my friends.”

6. Explore

You might like to follow up with a question or comment to get more details about the situation or explore more emotions.

Parent: “This little string on the waist of your pants is loose. No wonder they were falling down. Let’s see if we can tighten it up a bit.”

Child: “Thanks Mum.” (with an enormous sense of relief)

Emotional Tuning is a process of delving down into the child’s feelings and emotions with him and coming out the other side together. If you do this often enough, your child will learn to accept and manage her own strong emotions, learn how to solve problems, and learn to know when she is coping well or when she needs to get help. This is emotional intelligence.

However, emotional tuning is not an excuse for a parent not setting good boundaries and limits and implementing consequences where necessary. Your child also needs to learn that the world does not stop just because she is having an emotion.


Narelle Smith


Categories: Managing Emotions


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