Research has demonstrated that emotions expressed in parent–child relationships are associated with children's school success. Yet the types of emotional expressions, and the mechanisms by which emotional expressions are linked with children's success in school, are unclear. In the present article, we focused on negative emotion reciprocity in parent–child interactions. Using structural equation modeling of data from 138 parent to child dyads [children's mean age at Time 1 (T1) was 13.44 years, SD = 1.16], we tested children's negative emotionality (CNE) at T1 and low attention focusing (LAF) at Time 2 (T2) as sequential mediators in the relation between parent and child negative emotion reciprocity at T1 and children's grade point average (GPA) and inhibitory control at T2. Our findings supported an emotion‐attention process model: parent–child negative emotion reciprocity at T1 predicted CNE at T1, which predicted children's LAF at T2, which was, in turn, related to low inhibitory control at T2. Findings regarding children's GPA were less conclusive but did suggest an overall association of negative reciprocity and the two mediators with children's GPA. Our findings are discussed in terms of emotion regulation processes in children from negatively reciprocating dyads, and the effects of these processes on children's ability to obtain and use skills needed for success in school.