It was one of the sad, humbling experiences of my parenthood. I had just reacted out of anger at my daughter, 4 years old at the time. As she sat on my lap, we both cried and I told her I was sorry. She looked right at me, with tears streaming down her little face, and said, “Mommy, talk to me. Tell me how you feel.”
We want to do well by our children, but we don’t usually know what to do instead – instead of yelling, instead of spanking, instead of punishing.
Fortunately for me, there was a parenting course available in our town, and I signed up for it soon after this episode.
Here are some things I learned about blowing it as a parent and what to do:
- Apologize – It doesn’t make children lose respect for you. It helps them realize that you are human and you make mistakes.
They learn that you value your relationship with them more than your pride.
- Be Compassionate – Parents tend to beat themselves up and their self-esteem suffers. Look at yourself with compassion and allow forgiveness to wash over you.
From this vantage point, choose to do something different next time. Choose to respond in a way that you will be proud of.
- Reflect – Notice what circumstances led to the blow up. Were you tired? Get more sleep.
Were you stressed about work? Find a way to unwind before you come home.
Asking too much of your child? Be realistic about what they are actually capable of at their age.
Try to teach instead of blaming and shaming. Set yourself up for success the next time. (There will definitely be another chance for you to practice!)
- Ask for a “Re-Do” – Even young children appreciate this, especially when done with humor. “I didn’t like the way I handled that. I’m going to hit the re-wind button.”
Make a funny noise and say, “Here’s what I WISH I would have said…” This can be healing for both of you.
- Learn – Resources are available. Check with your church, look online for reputable parenting resources, and read books by Jane Nelson, Kathryn Kvols, and Dr. Laura Markham.
Seek out parenting workshops, classes and support groups to keep yourself encouraged.
When we model handling our own mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve, to change future behavior and to make things right, we are teaching our children in the best way possible – by showing them how.