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How Thomas the Tank Engine Can Make Your Kids Smart & Popular

Intriguing title, no?  You’re going to have to stick with me a little on this one because I’m technically posting on Emotional Coaching.  Now, hold on – before you go to click away from the “touchy feely” post, read a little further.  I promise this wasn’t a bait and switch, Thomas will make it in!


The quick and dirty on Emotional Coaching is basically this:
  1. The goal is to help kids to be aware of emotions and to learn how to express and regulate them.
  2. The parent’s role is to model how to express, regulate, and react to emotions and to regularly discuss emotions with their kids.
So why all the focus on emotions?  Research has shown that a child’s social and emotional skills are key building blocks for cognitive development, stress management, language acquisition, school readiness, and strong peer relationships.


There’s a chain reaction that occurs for that last part, aka your kid having friends and being popular (of course the stress on popularity here is a joke – the goal is simply to help your child build meaningful and successful relationships).  The chain goes like this:

Increased Emotional Awareness and Regulation -> Improved Communication Skills -> Improved Conflict Resolution Skills -> Increased Confidence and Self-esteem ->  Strengthened Relationships with Parents and Peers 


Have I sold you on the concept yet?  Wanna learn exactly how to be an emotional coach? (And find out where Thomas fits in all of this?)  Read on for the 5 basic steps:


1. Become aware of your child’s emotions.
2. Recognize emotions as opportunities for connecting with and teaching your child.
3. Listen empathetically and validate your child’s feelings.
4. Help your child find words to label his or her emotions.
5. If the emotions stem from a problem (i.e. not wanting to share or to be left), set limits while exploring strategies to solve the issue.


A little disclaimer, I am not an expert on this – I’m simply sharing because I feel I’ve already seen some positive effects of limited Emotional Coaching with C.  For more information on each of these steps (especially #5 – it’s a doozy) either google “Emotional Coaching” or check out John Gottman’s book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.


Now that the learning and memorization parts of the post are over, lets get to the fun stuff – Thomas.  You can certainly get all the benefits I’m about to describe by reading Thomas books (and we do that too) but I’m going to use the example of the Thomas TV show.  Yes, that’s right, I let my 2 year old watch some TV.  I know, I know – call CPS, I’m a terrible parent. (In all seriousness I do have mommy-guilt about the limited TV that C watches – but that’s another post for another time).  I try to redeem myself for the TV by actively watching it with C, asking him questions about what’s going on and attempting to incorporate a lesson of some sort when possible.


Unfortunately, my efforts to steer C towards Sesame Street have failed miserably and he is only interested in Thomas and Friends.  There’s not a whole lot of numbers, letters, etc. to learn about in the show but there are plenty of emotions.  Embarrassment, jealousy, pride, fear, excitement, disappointment and confusion all make regular appearances.


So I’ve been making a concerted effort to talk about these emotions with C while we watch.  I think it’s really helping him to identify different emotions in himself and others.  He now regularly recaps incidents in the past (usually a whole 5 minutes past) by describing his emotions, “C was sad but now C is happy”.  Are you seeing how this plays in with Emotional Coaching? (Hint: see step #4 above).


What do you think?  Is Thomas going to make C super successful when he gets bigger?  Or am I just deluding myself into feeling less guilty while he watches TV and I get some laundry done?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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