Depending on your child’s nature, their expression of feelings may range from intense displays to refusal to acknowledge you. No matter where your child falls on this emotional continuum or which parenting role you’re using, the Emotional Support Process, or the E.S.P., will allow you to bridge the gap formed between you and your child during conflicts so that you can win their trust and become their Ally.
You will find the complete diagram of the E.S.P. in my book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach To Transform Conflict Into Cooperation to be published in January 2017.
The diagram of the E.S.P. uses five panels to describe your child’s emotional states and needs as well as ways to respond effectively so that your child can express their upset and move toward a more rational state. Often, parents want to avoid conflicts, so they try to calm their child, dismiss them, get angry at them, or numerous other approaches that make the situation worse rather than de-escalate it. Instead of labeling the figures in the diagram as “child” and “adult,” I have called them “speaker” and “listener” because this process is applicable to all relationships, whether between you and your partner, your friend, your parent, your co-worker, or even your boss. You can improve all relationships when you master the E.S.P.
Our limbic system, the emotional brain, is developed before birth whereas our prefrontal cortex, the logical brain, starts developing after birth, so your children need you to learn how to respond effectively to their emotions right from the start. Parents usually want their children to be logical rather than emotional because logic is easier to handle, yet this is impossible because your child’s prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until ages 25 – 29. Once you understand and practice the E.S.P., you will gain confidence in handling emotions as you build beautiful connections with your child. These connections will create a solid foundation for weathering future storms, especially during the teen years.
In this chapter, you will begin to learn the communication skills that will enable you to be empathetic, nonjudgmental, supportive, compassionate, understanding, flexible, collaborative, open-minded, and encouraging. You will learn about communication blocks, which are words that hurt your child and block open dialogue. Then, you will learn how to avoid these communication blocks and respond instead with empathetic phrases that keep the doors of communication open. I will refer to the critical communication skills introduced in this chapter throughout the book, since they are an integral part of being an Ally parent.
It’s like riding a bike. The E.S.P is the back wheel, and the parenting strategy you’ve chosen is the front wheel. As you practice both wheels, you become more skilled at moving forward, steering, and balancing, so you can lead your family toward successful interactions. Just as becoming a confident bike rider requires learning new skills and trusting your teacher, the more you practice the E.S.P. and your strategies, the more confident you will become as you witness your successes.
Combining the E.S.P. with a Director or problem-solving strategy may feel uncomfortable and not “parental” at first. You may resist learning how to support your child emotionally because you believe that you’re being too soft, you need to stop your child’s upset, or your child will assume they’ll get their way if they’re listened to. These are common misconceptions that will be disproven as soon as you begin the E.S.P.
My goal is to teach you how to use the Emotional Support Process so that you will experience its amazing benefits and understand its essential role in being your child’s Ally rather than their adversary. When you provide the emotional support that your child needs, you dissolve walls of conflict and instead build bridges of understanding and lifelong connections.
It is helpful to discuss the concepts in this book with other parents so you can help each other identify the thoughts and beliefs that are clouding your ability to be emotionally available and supportive to your children. When I learned the brain science of feelings and practiced supporting my upset daughter, my lack of understanding and helpless feelings during her upsets disappeared, and a beautiful bond of closeness took its place. My desire is for you to experience the same benefits as I did.
©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at www.bridges2understanding.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!