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Emotional Intelligence for Parents

Today I had the great fortune of listening to Dr. Travis Bradberry speak at a conference about his research on emotional intelligence. While his message was intended to speak to a business audience, the message can also be applied to parenting.

Recent research on the brain has shown that when our brains receive new information, it travels through the limbic system (emotional centre) before heading into our rational brain. Which means that we feel things before we have the chance to think about them rationally. So emotional intelligence is really about being aware of and managing our emotions.

Let’s break down Dr. Bradberry’s 4 skills of emotional intelligence and see how they can apply to parenting.

  1. Self-awareness - being aware of your emotions in the moment. For example, your child just hit their sibling. What’s going on in your body? What thoughts are running through your mind? Self-awareness means knowing how you react to others, and which things really push your buttons.

  2. Self-management - what you do with your emotions. Use your awareness to direct your behaviour in a positive way, rather than reacting impulsively. After seeing your child hit their sibling, rather than immediately yelling or grabbing at their hand, take a moment to collect yourself and respond to the situation in a rational manner.

  3. Social awareness - understanding the emotions of others. Your child who hit may have had a hard day at school, or is feeling neglected because the new baby demands so much of your attention. Take a moment to think about what is going on for your child in that moment.

  4. Relationship management - use your awareness of your own and your child’s emotions to maintain and grow your relationship. Let your child know that while hitting is not ever allowed, you still love her and value her as a person.


Putting these things into practice takes time, and energy, which I know firsthand is lacking at this life stage of having young children. Growing self-awareness can also be a difficult task for tired, overwhelmed parents. If you need help understanding your own emotions, and those of your children, contact me today about how I can help you.