Messing up as a person and as a parent is normal. In fact, it’s a given that there will be times we lose our patience, miss our child’s cues, fail to pick them up on time, and so much more! Even though we may know that messing up is normal, we often feel terrible about it. So what’s to be done when you’re down in the dumps about your parenting and you suspect your child is upset with you?
Repair. Repair. Repair.
Repair your feelings and your relationship with your child.
1. Address your own feelings.
After realizing your behavior was less than optimal, notice how you feel – guilty, angry, disappointed? All of these feelings (and more) are normal. They act as signals, letting us know we could have done better. Without a strong signal, we may never change.
2. Move beyond your feelings.
Your feelings are not there to weigh you down, but to push you into action. Moving on not only helps you as a parent, but helps model for your child how to get up and dust oneself off. This doesn’t mean your feelings will disappear. It means that you recognize your feelings and will use them to act as a signal to help you choose a different response next time.
3. Assess the situation.
Were you too tired, rushed, impatient? Figure out what went wrong so that you can take steps to avoid similar reactions and support change in the future.
4. Connect with your child.
Find a time soon after when you and your child can connect. Talk with your child about what happened and apologize if you need to. For example, if you yell at your child you could say something like, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I bet it didn’t feel very good. Sometimes I make mistakes.” If your child wasn’t cooperating you can add something like, “Even if you weren’t cooperating, yelling was not a good solution.”
If your child is old enough, you can involve them in the repair process by asking them if they have suggestions for what other behaviors would work to resolve a situation.
Why is repair helpful?
Apologizing can be hard, but repair is much more than just “I’m sorry”. It helps parents model for children how to take responsibility for their actions, pick oneself up, dust oneself off, and learn from mistakes without being overwhelmed by negativity. It also helps children experience that life and relationships don’t need to be perfect to be okay.