May 20, 2024

Making Amends: What to Do After Losing Your Cool with Your Kid

Making Amends. Let’s face it, every parent has lost their cool with their child at some point. It’s a part of parenthood. The good news is that there are steps you can take to mend your relationship with your child after those moments of frustration. 

Dr. Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist known as the “parenting whisperer” and author of “Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want To Be,” believes in the power of repair as a fundamental parenting strategy. In her TED Talk, she emphasizes the importance of prioritizing connection over consequences to reshape the ending of less-than-ideal parenting episodes.

The Art of Repair

Dr. Becky Kennedy describes repair as the process of reconnecting with your child after a disconnection. It’s about bringing your understanding, compassion, and empathy to your child after moments when your temper got the best of you. This is a way to rewire your child’s perception of the event and prevent them from feeling alone or flawed.

Steps for Repair

Repair begins with a simple but profound step: apologizing. Then, recount what happened to show your child that their feelings and experiences matter. Acknowledge what you wish you’d done differently and explain how you plan to handle similar situations better in the future.

Changing Memory Through Repair

Kennedy explains that memory is not a static record but more like a game of telephone. When we revisit past events, our brain networks change, modifying our recollection of those events. Repair works in a similar way. If, after losing your temper, you sit down with your child, explain why it happened, and assure them it wasn’t their fault, their memory of the incident changes. It no longer feels as overwhelming or self-blaming.

Never Too Late for Repair

Many parents worry that it’s too late for repair, even years after repeated episodes of yelling or frustration. However, Dr. Kennedy emphasizes that it’s never too late to start making amends. Small actions in the direction of repair can have a significant impact on your child and your relationship. The process may not change everything, but it will make a difference in your connection.

Non-Verbal Repair

While verbalizing your regret and making amends is essential, non-verbal actions, such as offering a comforting snuggle after a conflict, are also valuable. However, the feelings from the initial rupture often remain. Without an explanation, children may craft their narratives, often rooted in self-doubt and self-blame. Explaining your actions helps you rewrite the stories they tell themselves.

Consequences vs. Antecedents

Some parents worry that repair might prevent children from learning that actions have consequences. Dr. Kennedy argues that focusing on what leads to “bad behavior” is more effective.

Behavior typically stems from underlying emotions. Understanding and addressing these emotions give children the skills they need to make better choices, reducing the need for consequences.

By practicing repair and prioritizing the connection with your child, you’ll not only health moments of frustration but also nurture a relationship based on empathy, understanding, and resilience.