Can you relate to this? Here’s a typical situation our coaching team hears from parents:
“Last night was awful. My son came home two hours after curfew and when I tried to talk to him, he started making excuses and blaming me for making the curfew too early. I got so mad, we started yelling at each other. I told him he’s grounded for the next three months.”
Now what? Grounding her son for three months isn’t going to work. But if she backtracks, she feels like she’s giving in to bad behavior. This parent feels backed into a corner.
Luckily there is an effective way to “re-do” a parenting moment gone wrong. Once you master this tool, you’ll use it all the time.
Find a quiet time, the next day or a few hours later, and sit down with your child. Use this template to help you acknowledge the mistake and move forward:
“You know, we had a hard time last night and I told you were grounded for three months. That’s not going to work. I’m sorry that happened. Next time I get upset, I’m going to take a break so we can both calm down. You’re not grounded for three months, but we do need to talk about what happened with curfew and how you’re going to come home on time in the future.”
“If you want your child to listen to you, I personally think you need a system in your home in which it becomes the child’s responsibility to listen to you.” – James Lehman, MSW
Before you start this conversation, take time to think about what you would have done differently. Then tell your child what you wished you had done, and give a modified consequence. You are in control this time around. Admitting your mistake does not diminish your power and it doesn’t show inconsistency or weakness. A parenting mistake does give you and your child an opportunity to learn together.
We don’t expect this conversation to make your child feel happy and compliant. They still need a consequence and they will probably still be mad. If things start to get heated, it might be best to take a break and talk later – this is another opportunity to model the behavior you wanted to show last time.
These moments are uncomfortable, but parenting mistakes are incredible teaching opportunities. If you want another resource for staying calm while parenting, this article is a great place to start: Trapped in a Screaming Match With Your Child? 5 Ways to Get Out Now.
If you need more support, 1-on-1 Coaching may be for you. Or share your experience below with the Empowering Parents community.
Wishing you the best,
Becky & The Empowering Parents Team
About Rebecca Staples
Becky Staples has worked with children and families in a variety of settings including schools, homes, and community agencies. She has a degree in Education and Child Study from Smith College and her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Becky has been working with Empowering Parents families since 2008.