How Parents Influence Emotional Development in Children


Mar 11, 2015


Parents play a strong role in emotional development in early childhood. Your actions, reactions, teachings, even your mere presence greatly impact children’s emotional health. Love, acceptance, example, and discipline are the four critical elements that affect emotional development in children and are necessary to laying a strong emotional foundation.

How your love affects emotional development in children

Love is the foundation of every positive human relationship. It is very important for your child to feel loved throughout her life, as it also gives a feeling of security, trust, and reliability. Most importantly, it keeps your child cheerful and happy.

Love has to be unselfish and unconditional. It should be given selflessly, without expecting your children to return any form of behavior or favour. Love isn’t necessarily expressed through material gifts; it can also be expressed through something as simple as listening to your child. Listening means not only hearing spoken language, but also paying attention to your child’s behavior, expressions, and silence. Parents’ attention and time are two precious gifts that signify an abundance of love. Spending quality time with your family leads to a healthy atmosphere at home and enhances the parent-child bond.

Love is also expressed in the form of touch. The healthy touch of a parent strengthens children’s alertness and security and helps them differentiate between good and bad touches later in life. In the early part of a baby’s life, touch may take the form of breastfeeding, which helps lay the foundation of the mother-child relationship. Cuddling also calms the baby. Touch does not necessarily mean attending to your child all the times; it is important to leave a child by herself at times – though always supervised.

Love also means building trust and respect toward the rest of the family. By leaving your child with other family members occasionally and slowly increasing the duration, you are establishing trust between your child and the family. Creating this habit at an early age will reduce separation anxiety, increase independence, and also give you time for taking care of yourself. However, it is important that the family follow the same rules as you when caring for your child, in order to maintain consistency.

How your acceptance affects emotional development in children

Acceptance of situations or circumstances is a key step in the emotional development in early childhood. The faster we accept an issue, the faster we can find a solution to it. Through small examples in daily life, teach your child to make the most of undesirable situations by approaching them with positivity. Your child learns from you; if you adopt this attitude, it will be passed on easily.

It is also important to accept people, with all their foibles, as well as situations. Nobody is perfect, and accepting people as they are builds a healthy perspective toward differences. Do not scold your child for every mistake, but rather give him the confidence that it is acceptable to make mistakes. Tell him that everybody makes mistakes, which are like teachers of right and wrong. A positive attitude towards your child’s mistake will build his confidence in you and turn you into his confidante.

Teach your child, too, that every mind is entitled to an individual opinion, which should be respected. This kind of acceptance will give him emotional freedom and set him up to become an independent adult. Children who learn the lesson of acceptance early in life handle life’s thorny situations better in the future.

How your example affects emotional development in children

For any child, their parents are larger-than-life superheroes. Your child looks up to and idolizes you. Therefore, in order for her to behave in a particular way or evolve into a responsible and mature adult, you need to lead by example. Parents will teach more effectively by modelling behavior than by giving long, boring lectures because children are constantly observing their parents.

This extends to negative attitudes or undesirable behavior, which your child will surely copy along with the good.  Watch your actions and words in order to set a good example. For instance, if you’re a disciplined citizen, then your child will likely follow suit. If you are respectful and truthful towards each other, she will grow up to be a loving person who values relationships.

How your discipline affects emotional development in children

Discipline creates an outline of desirable social behavior. It is a structured method that your child has to follow, irrespective of surroundings, and must be inculcated from a very early age. Children start understanding the meaning of “No” around 10 to 11 months. At this age, if the behavior continues even after telling your baby “No,” simply divert his attention, which should be very easy to do.

At fifteen months, your child enters a phase of slight stubbornness and does not follow instructions. This continues generally until the age of three or four, when it more or less disappears until adolescence. It is very important to deal with this phase with love and respect, but also by being a little strict and firm. Children can easily manipulate parents, therefore it is very important that you maintain uniformity in your actions and teachings.

Discipline affects emotional development in children by teaching them to be responsible, independent, positive, and reasonable. Enforcing rules at home ensures they will be followed at school and other social surroundings. Be firm with your child and be honest with him as well; there is no need to be harsh or raise a hand. A simple “time out” can produce the desired behavior change in small children: for two to five minutes, place your child in a corner or room in which there are no other interesting things to amuse him.

A happy and loving family means children’s emotional health will have a strong base. By showing love and acceptance, modeling good behaviour, and disciplining with love and respect, emotional development in early childhood will build a foundation that allows kids to face the world confidently, independently, and securely.


Written By Dr. RK Anand

Dr. R. K. Anand, MD (Pediatrics), FRCP (Edinburgh), DCH (London) was the Former Medical Director, and currently is the senior-most pediatrician and Head of the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology at the Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. An internationally recognised pediatrician, Dr. Anand was honoured with the Fellowship of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics and that of the Royal College Of Physicians, Edinburgh, for his contributions in the field of pediatric education, research and child care. As former Professor of Pediatrics at the T. N. Medical College and B. Y. L. Nair Charitable Hospital, Dr. Anand has guided several research projects and trained many young pediatricians who have distinguished themselves in India and abroad. Dr. Anand has worked with doyens of pediatrics like Prof. L. S. N. Prasad and Prof. G. Sharan from India, Prof. R. S. Illingworth and Prof. O. P. Gray from the UK, and Dr. C. Robert E. Wells and Dr. Waldo E. Nelson from the USA. He has been advisor and resource person for child care programmes of international organisations like UNICEF, Consumers International, International Baby Food Action Network, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, and Health Action International.

Ending the exploitation of the child consumer has been Dr. Anand’s crusade. He was a member of the Working Group set up by the Government Of India for formulation of a Code for the Marketing of Baby Foods, Chairman of the Committee for Protection of the Child Consumer of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, and founder-president of the Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health.

Winner of the Best Speaker Award of the Speaker’s Academy, Mumbai, Dr. Anand has conducted several radio and TV programmes on child care and holistic living in English, Hindi and Punjabi. He has been contributing regularly to national and international scientific journals, and to books on child health. He is well known as an authority on breastfeeding and in the field of Social Pediatrics.


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