Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How can I reconnect with my children after I yell at them?

Every parent gets frustrated and yells or says something they later regret.  It might have been a weak moment on your part or your child was doing something unreasonable or dangerous that you needed to put a stop to immediately.  Most of us do not feel particularly connected to someone that has just yelled at us and the same thing is true for your child.  At moments like these your child feels disconnected from you and is therefore less able to take loving correction from you. In order to have the positive influence over your child again you need to make an effort to reconnect with him or her.  The good news is that children are resilient and have a natural desire to restore the relationship with you.  

By far the most challenging part of this process is for you the parent or caregiver to recognize that a disconnection has occurred.  This realization might come in the middle of the episode or it might come hours, days, weeks, months or even years later.  The elapsed time does not matter.  What is important is that you restore the relationship. 

Step one – Rewind. This means that you stop the reaction you are having and take a breath.  Make an effort to separate your emotions from the current events.  This is difficult to do because there is a good chance you are already emotionally charged.  When a person is so upset it is very difficult to stop the flow of physical energy.  

When beginning to try reconnecting with your child, you will most likely not notice how your words affect your child until after the event has happened.  That is okay.  Once you begin to develop the habit, you will find that you will get good at noticing the disconnection.  Soon you will be catching yourself mid- sentence and making adjustments.  If you do not become aware of the division until long after the event has happened you can still continue to reconnect with your child. 

Step two – Repair.  This means that you apologize for the way you handled the situation.  For some parents apologizing to their child seems wrong, like you are giving in and even giving up control.  But if you want your child to be the kind of person that understands what it means to be sorry, modeling sorrow and regret is imperative.  You would be amazed at the response from a child when an adult apologizes.

Step three – Replay. This means that you essentially replay the situation, responding the way you feel you should have.  Tell your child what you wish you would have said.  This is easy enough to do in the middle of the situation, but can be a tricky to figure out when it is days or even hours later.  When you want to replay a situation days after it happened simply tell your child what you wish you would have said.  The act of replaying it –though it might seem silly- will help you to learn to react differently next time. 

I find examples to be helpful.  You have just found your six year old with markers drawing on the wall.  Your first reaction may be to yell and snatch the markers away, send him to his room and tell him he can’t watch TV any more today. However, mid sentence you realize that by doing that you are hurting and disconnecting him from yourself.  So you stop and take a breath – maybe a few.  Then you say “Justin, I am sorry that I just yelled at you.  I did it because I was surprised and upset.  I know you are aware drawing on the wall is not allowed.  However, what I should have said is ‘We draw on paper, not on the walls. It is not okay with me if you draw on the walls.  Now you need to help me clean it up.  In the future if you would like to draw, you can find me and ask me for some paper.’ I am sorry I did not say that to you.  Now let’s go get some cleaning supplies to clean it up.”  

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo calls these three steps to reconnection with your child the 3R’s.  Rewind, Repair and Replay.  I hope you find them helpful in lovingly dealing with your children.   

1 comment:

Sherri said...

I'm glad to see you writing about this topic Marcia. I think reconnection is vital to keeping a healthy relationship with your child. It's reassuring to know that I don't have to be "perfect" all the time. During those moments when I slip and do something I regret, I can always come back and "rewind, repair, and replay."