There are some dark days while parenting, and even tougher nights when we lay our head on the pillow and wish things could have been different that day. We might feel disconnected, resentful and sad. This is because we are human! So are our children. We make mistakes. We are in relationship with each other, and we are all still growing and practicing. The beauty and gifts that our children give us is the gift of grace, and the gift of forgiveness. We get to give them this too. There is always another day and a chance to try a new way of being together.
After a tough day it’s important to repair and reconnect with our children. Here are some ways to get started.
Be the Bigger Person
When I was nannying for a family years ago, the mother told me “Remember she is 6. You are the grown up.” You have a choice as a parent. When you wake up YOU are the one that gets to decide your attitude. No one else “makes you” or “puts you” in a feelings penalty box. Your attitude can set the tone for the day and have a ripple effect. Remember that all behavior is communication. They’re doing the best they can with the skills they have!
It’s unrealistic to expect a child will come to you apologizing for a rough day.
Let the new day be a fresh start for both of you, and consider modeling an earnest apology for your own behavior, if it feels appropriate. I have found, in my 13 years of parenting, that there is ALWAYS something I can take responsibility for when things have gone sideways.
Have a Re-Do
These tough days can also be wonderful opportunities to teach life skills to children. Sharing your own feelings, coaching them on taking responsibility, and teaching them what to do differently next time can lead to role plays or “re-do’s” that actually strengthen your relationship.
Keep it shame and blame free, and focus on solutions.
This is honestly a game changer for me and has helped keep that pesky ego at bay. Truly, discipline means to TEACH, so until we embrace the challenges for teaching opportunities, we will continue to stay in the same doomsday cycle. Have a re-do and move on!
Everyone feels better after getting some fresh air. Change up the energy, clear the air with music, and get outside for a walk or some free play ASAP. Walking and nature is a fabulous way to build connection. Give lots of space in the conversation for them to share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The “ick” of the day before can leave some sensory energy residual, so moving your bodies is the fastest way to get it out. Can’t get outside? Dance parties in the kitchen work just as well.
Play is where brains are re-wired and the soul is filled. Get down on the floor, put away your phone, follow their lead, and get into it. Even 10 or 20 minutes of dedicated, focused playtime can make a huge difference in connection and repair. Legos, magna-tiles, coloring, water play, finger paint, dolls/imaginative play, cards, board games, dress up, cars….channel your inner fun.
Cut Them (and Yourself) Some Slack
Everyone has big feelings, and everyone has off days. It’s completely natural, normal, and expected that there will be rough days. It can feel isolating or you might think that you are the only one, but ALL parents have rough, regretful moments. Notice this perfectionistic pressure, without judgment. Get curious about it. I like to use the “zoom out zoom in” mindfulness method.
Zoom out of the situation and zoom back in with a fresh pair of eyes to look at it in a different way.
Relax and be flexible when you can, and remember that our children are still navigating all of these COVID-19 challenges on top of the regular ups and downs that come with growing up. Be kind to yourself, just as you would say to a friend. Kids are relentless. Don’t beat yourself up.
At the root of these rough days is our own depletion. I know it’s clichéd, but taking some time to calm down and recharge can make a big difference for the next day. Maybe it is a phone call, sitting on the front porch with some tea, rewatching a favorite movie, or taking the dog for a walk. Make sure you’re actually doing things that will make you feel better long-term, like eating well, sleeping, and exercising, and not just self-soothing. Parenting has a lot of innings, and taking care of ourselves is a necessary part of the important responsibility we have in raising remarkable kids.
You deserve a fresh start, and your child does too. Begin again with a positive attitude and quality, focused time together to repair and rebuild after a tough day.
How do you reconnect with your children?
Danielle Taylor is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Certified Positive Discipline Early Childhood Educator. Danielle has over 13 years of experience working with children in various capacities, primarily as a nanny and a classroom teacher. Danielle is a passionate life-longer learner and enjoys sharing Positive Discipline tips, tools, and tricks with others.