This past week I freaked out on my daughter. It has been so miserably hot, and I have been running around trying to get packed up and off on our summer holiday and, well, I lost my s*it on her.
Let’s face it, we have all had those parenting moments that we are not proud of. Be it from frustration and heat like in my case, or perhaps the snap reaction that comes from the unexpected pain of a sippy cup hurled at your head while driving.
It could be any of a million triggers that push us over the top. BOOM we go off. You may even know yelling or a smart remark is the wrong thing to do, but you just want that cathartic moment anyway.
While it might feel like a release, it’s not good parenting. So how do we clean up and make good? According to Jane Nelsen of positive discipline (a fellow Adlerian), parents should follow the rule of the four Rs of recovery.
Acknowledge that you made a mistake. Be as kind and gentle to yourself as you would to a good friend. It was simply a mistake, nothing more. It’s not a personal shortcoming or failure. Instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself that what you did was ineffective and not actually helpful in getting you closer to what you really wanted to accomplish.
Take ownership for the part that you played in causing the mistake, but without attaching blame to either yourself or others. Blame-free accountability for our behaviour and our willingness to do something about it is critical to recovery.
Now to say sorry in an authentic way. You may feel you were, and still are in the right, but if you were disrespectful or hurt your child's feelings, you need to apologize for that wrong-doing. It’s not okay to hurt others and you are sorry you did.
Resolution is where the hard work begins. It means coming up with solutions together that are satisfactory to all. I guess this is where the saying "sorry just doesn’t cut it” comes from.
Until you address the underlying problems, mistakes will happen again and again. If you are fighting about coming home for curfew on time, you need to come to a resolution about a mutually agreed upon curfew that suits both parties.
If you are yelling about being late in the morning, you need to address what gets people slowed down in the morning so you can go faster and be more punctual without yelling tomorrow.
The focus is not on the past problems and behaviours, but on new ideas to try in the future.
Parents who can recover from mistakes well show their children what resiliency looks like. It is okay to ask for a “do over.” It's just like when filming a movie and an actor blows a line and needs a second take.
If you lose your cool and yell or say something hurtful, you can simply say “I am so sorry -- I need a do over”. Walk out of the room, take a deep breath, clean the proverbial slate and walk back in and start the interaction again.
It’s okay to say “I have been thinking about the rule we made about snacks in the afternoon and I want to change my mind about that now. I have had more time to think about it. Let me tell you my new thinking.”
Its okay to say “I need to talk more about what is happening right now, but I am afraid I won’t say it politely and I need time to cool down. Let’s revisit this talk when I am calm”.
Teach yourself, and your children, methods for bringing yourself back from the emotional edge: deep breathing, counting to 10, listening to music, a warm shower, going for a walk.
We all make mistakes. We will keep making mistakes. Let’s learn together how to do them gracefully and meaningfully so we are more effective parents.
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