It happens to the best of us, right? We all have moments when we’ve lost our cool with our kids. We all have parenting moments we can think of that weren’t our best. And even if we have tools to regulate when we’re feeling triggered, there are just times where the circumstances are such that even for seemingly trivial things, we snap.
There’s a myriad of internal and external factors that will affect our window of tolerance and usually, these factors have very little to do with our children.
The good news is that our children don’t need perfect parents. What they do need is to know that their relationship with us is still intact and that they can continue to trust us, even when we misstep. So when these difficult parenting times occur, the key is to be intentional about repairing the relationship with our children.
There’s so much gold in the repair process – for us and our children. It’s the opportunity we have to deepen our relationship with our children, model responsibility and apology, teach them that we aren’t perfect (and that we don’t expect them to be either), we can also show them how we communicate when we hurt others, and we can admit that we are wrong.
So, here are 4 ways we can repair with our kids after we lose our cool.
1. Regulate before you repair.
Before doing anything meaningful after losing your cool, you’ll first need to regulate your nervous system and get your body into a place where you’re thinking clearly. So you’ll want to make sure you take the time to cool off.
You’ve got to ride the wave of your emotions – feel them and close that emotional loop so you can get to the place where you can have a constructive, healthy conversation with your kids that isn’t emotionally charged.
2. Apologize and Take Accountability.
Once you’ve calmed and feel regulated —and your kids have had a little time to regroup, too—it’s time to have a conversation with them. It’s our responsibility as parents to initiate the conversation – when we take the initiative to repair our relationships, we are teaching our children the importance of taking responsibility for what we do and how it affects others. It’s time for an earnest and gentle conversation.
And if your child isn’t ready to have a conversation and still wants you to leave them alone, that’s ok. They probably need some more space and time because they have some pretty big and overwhelming feelings. If this is the case, keep them safe and let them know you can wait to talk to them later.
When you’re both ready, the focus of the conversation should be repair, and not re-hashing all the details of what happened. Maybe what my child was doing was irritating or unreasonable, but that’s what kids do sometimes! The truth is that no matter what my kids do, I am the adult and I need to take responsibility for my triggers and my actions.
So, we want to acknowledge our behavior, take responsibility, and apologize – and we also want to make room for our children to share as well. We can ask them how it made them feel.
And if you share your heart and acknowledge what happened and take responsibility and earnestly apologize and your kids are still upset – that’s ok. We can’t control how or when they heal. If we’re sorry about what happened, part of that process is going to be giving them room to express how they feel about what happened too.
3. Problem Solve
Before you end this repair conversation with your kids, you want to explain to them what you’re going to do to prevent it from happening again, I’d encourage you to share that plan with them. One, because it shows them how we can plan and resource ourselves in advance, and two, because it’s going to help hold you accountable.
This is an opportunity to re-evaluate your triggers and self-regulation tools. What was going on in and around you? What was triggering you? How can you be better resourced? What helps you regulate? Even just noticing when you start to feel dysregulated can be a victory at first.
So before you have this conversation, you need to do some soul searching and ask yourself what you need. There’s probably some healing that needs to happen.
4. Follow Through
Finally, the most important step – you must let your children see you following through on the plan you discussed with them. It in this follow-through where they’re learning to trust you.
Maybe put a reminder somewhere you’ll see often, maybe give yourself other clues, maybe ask your kids to help keep you accountable – because the next moment you’re about to lose it will be important. And if you can catch yourself, regulate and respond differently, so much trust will be built. Your children will see you do what you said you’d do, and that alone can help you work through future missteps.
And if you’re really having a hard time finding resources and tools to help you regulate yourself, or if you’re having a hard time sticking to your plan of action for next time, reach out for help. Find a therapist or a good coach to help you navigate all this because it is not easy. Asking for and receiving help is not a sign of weakness, nor does it mean admitting failure or defeat. Rather, it’s acknowledging the importance of the relationship you have with yourself and your children and prioritizing your health so that you can show up in the healthiest way.
So if this is landing for you – give yourself that permission to be a work in progress. And if you’re interested in working with me, go to michellegrosser.com/coaching and fill out the interest form, or shoot me a DM on IG @themotherhood.podcast.
And finally, remember – motherhood is never a destination. It’s always about the journey. And I promise you, you’re doing better than you think.