We’ve all been there. You yelled at your child and now you and your child are both left feeling not so great. So what do you do next? You might worry that apologizing or admitting you made a mistake will make you look weak, that your child will think it’s ok to misbehave, that you won’t be seen as the strong parent figure. But in fact, it’s the opposite. Our children look to us to know how to behave, so it’s important to treat them with respect and teach them what it looks like to repair a mistake.
Get calm: Hit the pause button and give yourself a self calming break. If you need to lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes to get calm, that’s ok. Take a deep breath to help you be guided by love instead of anger. It can be helpful to think of something positive about yourself and your child. Remember during this self calming break you are modeling for your child the importance of self regulating your emotions, you’re modeling self control and calmness.
Apologize and repair: “I’m sorry that I yelled. You don’t deserve to be spoken to like that.” Apologizing to our children is not weak, it takes great strength to admit when we make a mistake. If your child were to yell at his friend, what would you want him to do? Apologize, of course. Show your child what that looks like by apologizing when you make a mistake too.
Process what happened with your child: Use an “I” message to state your feeling and expectation. Explain what triggered you to yell without attacking your child or making them feel like less of a person. “I feel anger when my hair is pulled because it really hurts. I would like you to keep your hands off my hair.” or “I feel worried when you leave your shoes on the entryway floor because someone could trip over them and get hurt. I would like them put away in your room.” Using “you” messages puts your child on the defensive. Whereas using “I” messages allows you to get your message across while avoiding blame, shame, guilt, or fear.
Start again: Make a plan on how to handle things differently in the future. You can make these plans with you child (ex. “Next time my hair is pulled, I will walk away.”) or you can do silent self refection. Forgive yourself for yelling. Focus on progress not perfection.
Remember to give yourself grace. Imperfect attempts are still amazing attempts because they means you’re trying, learning, and growing