Emotion Coaching was coined by American Psychologist John Gottman in 1997. His research is based in the realm of positive psychology, where instead of learning from things that have gone wrong, we look into things that are going well and how we can learn from them. In this instance, Gottman researched parents of happy, resilient and well-adjusted children: he recognised that what adults do shapes and influences brain development in children.

From this research he identified four ‘response styles’ to dealing with children’s emotions and behaviours based on how much guidance and empathy they offered. Emotion Coaching was identified as the most helpful style in guiding children to look after their emotions whilst remaining empathetic. Emotion Coaching is a three-step approach to support and develop internal regulation and focus on what is underpinning emotions, rather than the behaviours that surface as a result. It involves adults recognising emotions in others and validating them which then forms a safe base to set boundaries and limits around behaviour and encourage a collaborative problem-solving process.

Although Emotion Coaching was initially introduced as a parenting style, it can be used in all kinds of relationships: between teachers and pupils, school staff and parents, and between colleagues.

In the next blog post, we will consider why Emotion Coaching is so beneficial in education contexts and how we can all benefit from its introduction into schools.

If you would like more information on how to use Emotion Coaching, please see our online course: Emotion Coaching – Introduction for School Staff (training4schools.com)


Gottman, J., and Declaire, J. (1997). Raising an emotionally intelligent child. The heart of parenting. Simon & Schuster: New York

Siegel, D., and Payne Bryson, T. (2011). The whole brain child. Constable & Robinson Ltd.: London

The Gottman Institute website: https://www.gottman.com

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