Emotional Intelligence & Parental Communication

Emotional intelligence is a well-defined term in psychology describing the way people deal with their emotions 1. Parents tend to be masters of emotional intelligence, as simply being a parent requires large amounts of emotions and emotional control 1. However, smart parents pass this skill down to their children, even if it means engaging in emotionally intense conversations.

Emotional Intelligence and Communication

Daniel Goleman, pioneer researcher on emotional intelligence, or EQ, defines emotional intelligence as the ability to both understand emotions and monitor actions based on emotions 1. Children with a high EQ tend to succeed in understanding why they feel a certain way and controlling the urges that arise from emotions, such as the urge to hit arising from anger. As a parent, you have a special opportunity to help your child improve her EQ from a young age. Most of the techniques at your disposal work through communicating properly with your child. Such communication should focus on the emotions of the child, supporting his feelings while helping him find ways to deal with the feelings.


Respect is internal, but you show it through communication. In terms of emotional intelligence, parent-to-child respect goes a far way in helping children understand that their emotions are okay 1. You might find it hard to respect your child when she is angry, but that lack of respect is, in most cases, geared toward the actions that come after anger, not anger itself. By showing your child that every emotion is normal, you are respecting his right to feel. When the approval to feel comes from the parents, a child knows that she is not bad for feeling a certain way. For example, you can show respect toward your upset child by pointing out that the feeling is acceptable, even if the action is not. You might say to your child, “It’s okay to feel sad. Everyone feels sad sometimes. Let’s work on expressing your sadness in a correct way.” This form of emotional respect should supersede impulsive scolding such as, “Don’t be a baby” or “You have no reason to be sad” if you want your child to gain the important EQ ability of accepting emotions.


Mirroring is a psychological technique that has pervaded pop psychology in many strange ways, from teaching men to seduce women to winning a business contract. However, some mirroring, the mimicking of another’s subtle behavior, can truly help strengthen the relationship between two people, especially within the family. Relationship psychologist John Gottman, author of the book “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” suggests parents use mirroring during emotional communication 2. Examples of mirroring include mimicking the facial expressions of your child or using the same words your child uses to describe certain emotions. Gottman points out that by doing so, parents are show their child that they understand the emotions, which reinforces the child's understanding of her own emotions. For example, when you find your child unabashedly smiling at the excited brought by the news of going on vacation, mimic those smiles, showing your child that you are also excited for her.

Reinforcing Communication

Both you and your child would benefit from repeating the emotional communication that you share. When you reinforce your child’s ability to accept and understand emotions, do not forget to show appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in the conversation, which is often a part of your child’s inner monologue. As you generate an environment of open emotional communication with your kid, you will find him increasingly willing to come to you with his emotional troubles. The earlier you fabricate this environment, the better, as during the teen years, children are less likely to be open with parents and more likely to be embarrassed when discussing emotional matters. So. express your appreciation to your child, such as saying, “Thank you for sharing your feelings with me. I’m glad to talk to you whenever you feel happy or sad.”