Do-Overs to the Rescue!
"It's not what you do that matters most. It's what you do AFTER what you do."—Dr. Garry Landreth
Have you ever wished you could rebuild your relationship with your child after having said or done things you didn't like? You can!
Here are 5 tips for rebuilding your connection and your relationship:
1. The first step is ALWAYS listening with your eyes and ears.
This step helps you understand the child's perspective, underlying motivation, wish, and intention while helping you remain objective and calm. Listening, observing and objectively describing what you see and hear, as explained in my little handbook SAY WHAT YOU SEE®, gives you an easy way to start reconnecting.
Avoid judgment, criticism, questions, and advice while listening. Hugs, play wrestling, and other forms of playful physical contact also bring connection.
2. Children don't think like adults, but this doesn't mean the way they think is wrong.
While children's thinking is actually pretty complex, here's a simple way to see it:
Basically, you can consider childhood as the testing ground for cause and effect logic because to a child anything really is possible. Young children start building their understanding of the world by making rules based on simple associations. I call this "once is always" thinking. One experience of getting in the car + seeing grandma, grocery store + candy, bedtime + two books, instantly becomes "always." If you have ever tried to read just one book at bedtime instead of two like you did the night before, you know what I mean.
If this reminds you of how superstitions are formed (walking under a ladder causes bad luck, etc.), you are probably right. Beliefs like that can easily result when rules based on one-time events morph into cause and effect relationships.
A classic case is the common childhood belief that trees waving causes the wind. The association of trees waving + wind blowing is correct, but the cause and effect relationship is reversed.
When children draw funny conclusions like that, go back to the association and point out how they are correct that those two things do happen together, then add any information that is needed as in: "You are right that those things happen at the same time, and here's how it actually works..." This helps kids remain confident in their observation skills and open to learning more.
3. Acknowledge children's good intentions, especially when things have gone badly.
Children's good intentions tell you who they really are. The accidents and problems that their actions may create are valuable learning experiences that you can use to help children achieve their goals and fulfill their intentions. It takes a while to figure out how this world works. Your job is to be on their side as their coach.
For example, when a child spills milk, using the three steps of Language of Listening® could sound like this:
SAY WHAT YOU SEE: "That didn't go the way you wanted. You wanted it in your cup, and it's on the table, too."
CAN DO: "Hmm. Must be something you can do to clean it up."
STRENGTH: "There. You knew to use the dish cloth for wiping the table!"
SAY WHAT YOU SEE: "You really want to pour that yourself and get it all in your cup."
CAN DO: "You can set the cup in the sink and use water to practice pouring until you get it just the way you want. Then you can try with milk again."
4. Children welcome do-overs.
Do-overs really do rebuild connection. Fault-finding, blame, and “I told you so’s” are not part of a do-over. Do-overs are all about seeing the child’s point of view, apologizing for your own emotional explosions or mistakes, and working together to solve the problem that set it off. They can also be as simple as adding something you missed like pointing out a child's good intentions.
Even though you would prefer to do everything right the first time, catch yourself in the moment, or stop yourself before you started, do-overs can be your saving grace—now and always. Do-overs let children (and you) see who you really are—a loving, understanding parent who sometimes misses things or forgets yourself when feeling angry.
But the loving, understanding you is the real you, and your kids know it. They hate it when you disappear, and they can’t reach you (that’s the tears), but they remain surprisingly ready to welcome you back. A do-over can be the first step.
5. It's never too late to turn around your relationship with your child.
A key factor in your relationship with your child is your relationship with yourself. When you become aware that you want or need help, or believe your child might, trust your instincts. DON'T WAIT! Help is available in the form of books and professionals such as counselors, therapists, doctors, and coaches like Eva and me. We can help you bring love and understanding to yourself and your child, and provide tips and tools for keeping your relationship intact.