About Tuning in to Kids

What is the Tuning In To Kids program?

Tuning in to Kids™ is a parenting program that helps children learn to understand and regulate their emotions. Previous research has found that parenting styles can influence a child’s emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and control your emotions, as well as being able to communicate to others about how you feel. Children with good emotional intelligence often have better emotional, social, and physical functioning, as well as fewer behavioural difficulties.

Tuning in to Kids™ is a parenting program that aims to give you helpful ways of teaching your child the skills of emotional intelligence. The program teaches you about how you, as a parent, can help your child develop good emotional skills. It teaches parents:

  • awareness and regulation of their own emotions
  • awareness of their children’s emotions
  • to use children’s emotional experiences as an opportunity for closeness and teaching
  • skills in assisting children to verbally label and manage their emotions
  • skills in assisting children in problem solving
  • to guide children’s behaviour with appropriate limits

Tuning in to KidsTM involves watching video material, group discussions and exercises, role plays, reading information, and home activities where you try out different ways of responding to your child’s emotions. Parents are encouraged to share experiences and ideas within the group and group leaders may use these as examples to explain and teach the skills of emotion coaching.

Parent Feedback

Parents who have participated in the program have reported that they found it very useful for relating not only to their children, but also to other members of their family, their friends, colleagues, and people they interact with in their lives. At the same time they reported while the concepts in the program were very logical and simple, it was often difficult to put Emotion Coaching skills into practice. The quotes below provide an indication of the range of experiences of program participants.

‘It was easy to understand, but felt very strange doing it at first’

‘The entire family is now more conscious of their own and other’s feelings/emotions.’

‘Thank you for the chance to do the program — it is the best thing I have done to improve my relationship with my kids.’

Emotion coaching is a way of responding to children’s emotions that helps them to learn about their emotions. The key aspects of Emotion Coaching identified by Gottman and colleagues were:

  • being aware of children’s emotions
  • viewing children’s display of emotions as a time for intimacy and teaching
  • helping children to verbally label the emotions being experienced
  • empathising and validating children’s emotions
  • helping children to solve problems (and setting limits where appropriate)

Children

who receive Emotion Coaching are more likely to have better cognitive abilities, stronger social skills, display more prosocial behaviour, and have fewer physical illnesses than children who do not experience this style of parenting.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is about using your emotions to guide you through the world. It is about being able to use your own knowledge of emotions to make decisions, to calm yourself down, to manage anger and conflict, to help you in your relationships with people, to know what is happening in social situations, and to assist you in many aspects of life where you or another person are involved.
Developing Emotional Intelligence increases your ability to:

  • understand and talk about emotions
  • understand other people’s emotions and respond with empathy
  • motivate yourself optimistically – to plan, set goals and focus attention
  • handle relationships successfully – problem solve around emotions and manage behaviour – including resolving conflict thoughtfully and non-violently.

Why is Emotional Intelligence important?

Children with greater Emotional Intelligence have been shown to:

  • have greater success with making friendships and be more able to manage conflict with peers
  • be better able to self-soothe when upset or angry and have fewer behaviour problems
  • have better concentration which means they are more likely to be successful academically
  • tend to have fewer childhood illnesses
  • have more stable and satisfying relationships as adults
  • have greater career success: Emotional Intelligence may be a better predictor of academic and career success than IQ!

Many children and parents have some of these skills already. Our aim is to help families to develop Emotional Intelligence skills further and understand them in the context of current research.

A number of studies have been undertaken to evaluate the Tuning in to Kids™ program. The main research trial with parents of preschool children has been published in a number of journals. The following is a summary of these findings.

Study overview: This study evaluated a new prevention and early intervention parenting program: Tuning in to Kids™. The program aims to improve emotion socialization practices in parents of preschool children and is based on research evidence that parents’ responses to, and coaching of their children’s emotions influence emotional and behavioral functioning in children.

Method of the Study: 216 primary caregiver parents of children aged 4.0 – 5.11 years were randomized into an intervention

or waitlist control group. Parents in the intervention condition attended a 6-session group parenting program plus two booster sessions. Assessment occurred pre-intervention, post-intervention and at 6-month follow-up. Questionnaires assessed parent emotion awareness and regulation, parent beliefs and practices of emotion socialization (emotion dismissing, emotion coaching, empathy) and child behavior (parent and teacher report). Observation of emotion socialization practices and child emotional knowledge was conducted pre-intervention and at follow-up with 161 parent-child dyads.

Results of the Study: Parents who received the Tuning in to Kids™ program improved in their ability to respond to children’s emotions in supportive and teaching ways. They were also much less likely to be dismissive or critical when their children were emotional. Furthermore, children of parents participating in the program experienced significant reductions in behaviour problems, especially in those families where the child was having behaviour problems before the program began. Ninety-two percent of parents completed the program — suggesting a high level of engagement.

Conclusions of the Study: This study provides support for the Tuning in to Kids™ program. This prevention program targeting parents’ own emotion awareness and regulation, as well as emotional communication in parent-child relationships, is a promising addition to available parenting programs.

Other studies with parents of primary school aged children with behaviour problems and parents of pre-adolescent children are nearing completion.