Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

Tirades and Tears? Time for a Do-Over!

"My daughter was battling me about homework and my stress level kept rising ... when she finally sat down to do her homework and requested a snack, I refused to cut up a mango for her. Even just typing these words makes me realize how ridiculous it was, but I was mad and I wanted to show her that she would not get a snack until she did what I wanted her to do. We both became frustrated and angry and she ran off to her room and locked the door.  I stood in my kitchen and cried .... Then I remembered something from your newsletter about trying a do-over. 

I had to knock a few times before she let me in. I sat next to her on her bed and told her that I was sorry, that I hated when we fought and that I wanted to start the afternoon over again. I suggested that I would go out into the kitchen and when she was ready, she could come in the front door and pretend that she had just gotten home from school. We would give each other big hugs and then she would say, 'Mommy, I’m going to go do my homework but I’m so hungry. Could you please cut up some mango for me?' She was very excited about playing pretend and it worked great! We greeted each other with big hugs and then the homework was completed with less stress than usual and it was a better evening for all." -- Amy

Brilliant, right?

One great way to course correct when you see a collision coming, or when you find yourself sitting in a pile of emotional wreckage, is to ask for a "Do-Over."

Kids love to pretend. They instinctively use play to heal emotional wounds. And they love the idea that together you can rewrite the script to create a better ending. So Do-Overs can be the perfect way to repair when you're off track. Do-Overs acknowledge that we aren't perfect -- but we're family, and we'll always work things out.

Here's how:

1. Stop, Drop and Breathe. When you notice you've somehow gotten on the wrong path, just Stop. Drop your agenda, just for a moment. Your goal first is to calm yourself and reconnect. Take a few deep breaths, and say "I'm sorry, I was getting anxious.  Let's have a do-over, ok? What I meant to say was......" 

2. If you were a less than stellar role model in the anger management department, you'll have to apologize before suggesting the Do-Over. Don't worry, your child won't lose respect for you. He'll see that maturity means not being perfect, but being willing to take responsibility, make amends and try again. (How (and When) To Apologize To Your Child)

3. Reconnect with a big hug before you suggest the Do Over. She needs to know you still love her before she's ready for play. And remember that many children need to discharge a little emotion before they're ready for a Do-Over, so she might burst into tears either when you apologize, or even a few hours later. She's not only letting go of her anger, but the fear of losing you that was triggered by your conflict.

4. It's ok not to be perfect, but if you find yourself apologizing to your child frequently, that's a red flag.What's wrong in your life that's making you lose it with your kid so frequently? You're the grownup, so you're the one who has to address the underlying issues so that you can give your child the best of yourself. There's no shame in asking for help. The shame is in reneging on your responsibility as a parent by damaging your child physically or psychologically.

5. Agree on a family signal that your children can use if you don't notice your voice getting louder. My daughter would interject "Mom, is it time for a do-over?"  whenever I started to get upset. Before long, she began using it as a way to regulate her own emotions or heal a rift between us.

6. Don't be surprised if your kids start asking for Do-Overswhen they've drawn your ire. Be generous and always let them start again. You want them practicing their best selves; it trains the subconscious to produce that good behavior as the default.

So next time you find yourself in the middle of an emotional train wreck with your kids, try a family Do-Over. You'll find you can always rewrite the script for a happier ending.

***

"I love this! We have a "restart" or "retry" and it always helps us reconnect and practise how we wished we'd behaved, so our enduring memory then isn't of the argument but instead of that apology and reconnection. I genuinely can't remember the details of any of the actual arguments and yet I remember using this and getting a warm fuzzy feeling. My husband and I also now often do this when on the infrequent occasions where we disagree, and my daughter spontaneously does it with her baby brother too (which is incredibly cute)." - Bex



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