It’s 7:40 am. I overslept my alarm, and now I’ve been running behind all morning. I only had one sip of coffee. The mug is sitting on my counter, lonely. The kids need to eat breakfast and get out of the house in 15 minutes, or they will be late to school and I’ll be late to my first meeting of a long day. My seven year old, noting the chaos, grabs a full gallon of milk out of the fridge to help with breakfast and promptly loses his grip dropping it on the floor.
Milk. Is. Everywhere.
I scream, “What are you doing?! You spilled milk all over the floor, and I don’t have time to clean this up!” Tears instantly well up, as this cherubic little face fills with hurt and disappointment.
We All Need A Do-Over Now and Then
Have you encountered a similar situation where you walked away thinking, “Wow! I messed that up.”? You regret your words. . . your emotional reaction. . . and you find yourself walking away feeling horrible and wishing you could have a do-over with your kiddo.
Of course you have. Every parent has.
While we can’t go back in time and change it (If I could I would set three alarms!), we do get a chance to practice the parenting do-over.
When we do a parenting do-over we get to re-connect with our child through restoration, while modeling how to do “the next right thing” after a mistake. Our kids can see through our actions that people aren’t perfect, but conflict can be worked out.
Do-overs can be an effective parenting strategy for any age child, from toddlers to teens.
Secrets To A Successful Do-Over
Here are some practical steps to a get it right the second time when you lose it with your child. :
Give yourself some grace and calm yourself. We all make mistakes; it’s what we do next that matters. Take some time to cool down and get to a state where you are not feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
Acknowledge your mistake and take ownership for your behavior. When you left a situation knowing you didn’t react the way you should have, chances are good your child is aware of that also. When you acknowledge your poor actions and take ownership of your behavior, you’re modeling healthy relational communication.
Identifying your emotions and how your body was processing the situation helps you and your child become more self aware:
“I didn’t like the way I reacted. I was overwhelmed and I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
Apologize and Reconnect. This is your opportunity as a parent to seek restoration with your child. Say you’re sorry and acknowledge how your child might feel. Take time to connect by giving your child a big hug and showing him how much you love him. A hug can also give you both a chance to release built-up emotions.
“I’m sorry. It looks like you’re sad. Can I give you a hug?”
Practice a Do-over. You may not be able to actually go back in time, but a do-over is the next best thing. You are going back to the beginning of your conflict and trying to walk through it again when you are calm and respectful.
Tell your child you have an idea, and invite them to try something new with you. Then ‘take it from the top’ of the conversation that went awry. You can both set expectations for your behavior and commit to trying to remain calm and respectful.
“Can we have a do-over? We can take it from that top and start over. I’ll be calm and respectful”
Do-overs can be fun! It can feel silly to replay a scenario again, but we grow in connection with our kids when we’re having fun. Play can bring the tension down and lighten a previously heightened mood.
Maybe you walk backwards out of the room like you’re rewinding a tape before starting the do-over or use fun, exaggerated voices with big smiles on your faces. You know what works best for your child, feel free to try it and see how it goes.
Make do-overs a part of your regular rhythm. Implementing anything new in your parenting strategy is not easy, but it becomes more natural and easier over time and with practice. Try a do-over at least once a week, even if the situation is minor. You’ll quickly discover it is part of your rhythm, and you may find your kids practicing do-overs on their own!
Go ahead, give it a try. You have so little to lose and so much to gain in strengthening your relationship with your children.
Britt Kelley is Foster Friendly Manager with Colorado Kids Belong. Her own life experience in foster care grew her heart for vulnerable kids. And as a mom of four kids she knows first-hand the importance of learning the parenting do-over!