Gottman describes four different parenting styles. “The
dismissing style” is one in which a parent pushes away
emotions deemed negative. “It’s not that bad. You are fine.
There is no reason for you to feel so unhappy.”
“The disapproving style” shows up when “bad”
emotions are punished, criticized, or shamed. “There is no
reason for you to feel sad/angry/jealous. If you don’t stop
crying, you are going to be in trouble.”
“The laissez-faire style” is when a parent encourages a
child to let all of their feelings out, but there are no boundaries
around the accompanying behavior. “However you feel and
want to express that is fine with me. Go ahead and let all your
feelings out.”
The fourth and healthiest is “the emotion coaching
style” which empathizes with any feeling expressed and then
helps a child figure out how to self-regulate. “I understand that
you feel angry, and I have felt that way as well. It is not ok to
kick someone when you are feeling this way. Let’s figure out a
way for you to deal with this feeling.”19
I mostly saw my own parenting style reflected in the
dismissive and disapproving categories. Acknowledging this
led to feelings of regret and shame, but grace and gentleness
also showed up. Grateful for a way forward, I committed to
pursue the role of emotion coach. The expression of
“negative” emotions became fertile ground to both learn and
teach that we all feel a variety of feelings. “There’s no such
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