Episode 22: Raise Your Emotional Intelligence As A Parent

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In this episode of The Family Couch we chat with Sarah MacLaughlin, a parent coach and social worker, about emotional intelligence and how to use it to be more effective in parenting. As a compassion coach and a warrior for kindness Sarah works with parents one on one and with the masses to forward the movement that we treat children as well as we can muster.

We discuss how parents can reform their parenting methods by using self regulation. Sarah shares that by modeling what we we teach we are raising the next generation of individuals who are self aware, who understand that emotions have a large impact on our work and happiness.  We laugh about how the movie “Inside Out” is a perfect example of the “down and dirty” for emotional intelligence. By breaking down the emotions (disgust, anger, sadness, and joy) and acknowledging them we are are taking the first step to understand them.

Sarah explains we are the first generation to benefit by understanding what emotional intelligence is and the impact this understanding may have on our role as a parents. As parents this can be seen as a positive (I have the opportunity to give more to my child than I had) or negative (I have to work harder to give what I did not have and I do not understand this emotional level of parenting) and how to work through this so our communication is clear to our children.

We discuss why it falls onto the parents to take the higher ground and maintain the calming presence, even when it is the children who are losing control in an argument. Sarah explains that scientifically, the adult is the one with a developed brain that can manage emotions when needed. A child simply has not developed these parts of his/her brain yet. Having these expectations for a child will lead to disappointment and frustration. Sarah gives tangible examples that a parent can implement to move past an argument for both the parent and child when it feels like the frustration or anger is too much.

Sarah brings up the struggles parents experience as our children age – the power struggles, limit setting, boundaries, when to step away, and how this relates to a family’s level of emotional intelligence. It relates heavily to the standard you set for your family. For example, what are your non-negotiables? What are you flexible on? As a family, once you decide these it makes the conflicts easier to navigate throughout the years.

Next we talk about what the “role of the parent” really is and how the “shoulds” come into play. Sarah brings up that these expectations bring more negativity into the relationship than necessary. These expectations are typically set in a negative light, where we are constantly judging where we are at in our journey and how we could be doing better. Instead, she challenges us to change the lens and focus on the positives. A tantrum after a stern no could be seen as raising a child that accepts and understands a consequence. Emotions are felt but the child understands what you, as the parent stated. That is a win.


Sarah is a Compassion Coach, play promoter + warrior for kindness.She has  worked with families for over 20 years as a teacher, nanny, social worker, and coach for moms and dads worldwide. She also authored the award-winning book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children. She delights in her fantastic partnerships with The Huffington Post, Parent & Family, and Role/Reboot.

Along the way, she studied Early Childhood Education and Developmental Psychology en route to a Bachelor’s degree in Women Studies and a graduate program in Elementary Education at San Francisco State University. She is a social worker and a child behavior specialist on a mission to encourage the most satisfying family life for all parents!





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