We all mess up from time to time with our kids.  When we fail to make a repair with our kids after a regrettable incident, we’re sending the message that our behavior was acceptable or that they deserved our over-reaction.  Many times parents are terrified to admit they’re wrong, but admitting this and repairing the relationship is one of the most important gifts you can give your child as you teach them that we are all human, perfectly imperfect, and that we are loved in spite of our imperfection.

It’s important to have these conversations once both of you have calmed down—this is when your child will be able to not only listen to you, but to learn from you and make a connection with you. 

The 5 A’s to Making a Repair:

  • Acknowledge you were wrong:  Let your child know that you understand you messed up and the effect that mishap may have had on them.  Acknowledging that you were wrong teaches your child a valuable lesson about imperfection and the humility necessary to admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness when necessary. 
    • Example: I am sorry I yelled at you.  I realize my yelling probably made you feel scared and sad.  I was wrong to yell at you and I am going to work on remaining calm when things get tense with us. 
  • Ask your child about their feelings:  Letting your child know you are curious how your actions made them feel and having a nonjudgemental response to their feelings teaches your child about empathy.  You’ll want to ask how they were feeling during the regrettable incident, afterwards, and currently. 
    • Example: What were you feeling when you threw that fit (or whatever it is they did—remember, their actions are fueled by their big feelings that they don’t know how to yet express)?  How did it make you feel when I yelled at you?  How are you feeling about it now?
  • Affirm their feelings and experience:  Anytime your child shares their feelings with you, it is imperative that you hold space for whatever emotions they express in a nonjudgemental way.  Let them know that their emotions make sense by sharing a time you also felt that way, and share how you got through that experience.  Your goal is to communicate to your child that all feelings are okay, and the tough feelings don’t last forever.
    • Example: You were scared.  I got angry and had a scary mean face on and it made you feel scared and sad.  I think I would have felt that way too.  I used to feel that way sometimes when I was your age too and reading a book always made me feel better.  How are you feeling now?  Assuming those feelings have faded: I’m so glad you don’t feel sad and scared anymore.  Those are tough feelings but they always end.  I never intended to make you feel sad or scared.  I love you.
  • Apologize: Authentically apologize to your child using a calm voice, hugs, and eye contact.
    • Example:  I am sorry I yelled at you.  I love you.
  • Avoid future problems:  Talk about how to avoid the issue in the future.  Many times, this means prioritizing your own self-care so that your fuse isn’t so short.  Often, the child’s inability to keep their cool plays a part in the issue, so this can be a good time to discuss with your child ways they can calm themselves down.
    • Example:  I don’t want to yell at you all the time.  How can we avoid this in the future?

Having these conversations is hard for all of us, but they are vital to teaching your child that no one is perfect and that it’s okay to mess up.  They teach them how to reconnect with others.  These vulnerable talks let your child know that love overarches all of our imperfections—and their’s too. 

If you want to learn more about increasing connection with your child, we will dive deeper into this important work on December 11th at my Connected Parenting Workshop.  Click below for more information and to sign up.