The other day was a hard day. I lost my cool. I raised my voice. I banged things around. I said mean things.
It gives me some comfort to know I’m not the only one who has hard days and loses my cool.
But even though it’s normal, that doesn’t take away the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach after I’ve had the equivalent of an adult tantrum. I feel guilty and ashamed, and wish I could take it all back.
Here’s the thing. We’re human. Even with all the information and best intentions in the world, we are going to mess up and lose our cool. The important thing is what we do after. How do we repair, after the rupture?
1. Prioritise safety and regulating your own emotions
First things first, make sure everyone is safe. That can include keeping your child safe from the heat of your big emotions. Make sure they’re in a safe space – maybe it’s in their room, or maybe it’s getting a partner to be with them. Then, do what you need to calm down. This could look like stepping into another room or the bathroom. You can say something like “I am so mad right now, I need to go to my bedroom and close the door for a few minutes to calm down. I’ll be back soon”. This isn’t abandonment, but a necessary step to gain control of yourself before you continue harming the relationship. Remember, you can’t help anyone if you’re dysregulated and out of control.
“I am so mad right now, I need to go to my bedroom and close the door for a few minutes to calm down. I’ll be back soon”.
2. Help your child regulate themselves
Once you’ve calmed down, then you can look for your child and support them. Lend your calm presence to your child. How you do this, depends on your child’s preference. They might respond to physical touch, like a hug or a touch on the back. Or they might prefer that you be close by, making yourself available without touching them.
Lend your calm presence to your child.
3. Ask for forgiveness
Finally, once everyone is calm, it’s time to ask for forgiveness. Despite their ability to push our buttons, our children are not responsible for our feelings and reactions, we are. By taking responsibility for our outbursts and apologising sincerely, we’re teaching our children that everyone makes mistakes and that there is no shame in asking for forgiveness. This could sound like “I’m sorry I lost my temper just now. I shouted and banged things around and you must have been scared. I was feeling very overwhelmed, but I should not have reacted that way.” Keep in mind that talking about what happened and saying sorry, might not come immediately after the outburst. What’s important is that it takes place soon after at a time when everyone is receptive.
…we’re teaching our children that everyone makes mistakes and that there is no shame in asking for forgiveness.
Remember, no parent is getting it perfect all the time. It’s not humanly possible. Let your child see you as the flawed human that you are, who’s always going to come back and repair the relationship again and again. They’ll learn how to be kind to themselves and others because you’ve shown them how.