Google+ Authentic Parenting: Eleven Steps for Healing and Restoring the Peace After Being Harsh With Your Child

Friday, June 1, 2012

Eleven Steps for Healing and Restoring the Peace After Being Harsh With Your Child

Have you been less than stellar with peacefully navigating parent-child conflicts lately? Has your temper flared, have you yelled, lost  your cool,  hurt or spanked your child? Has frustration, irritability, tiredness gotten the best of you?

Well, you are not alone. In a survey completed a few years ago, out of about 1,000 families, 88% of parents admitted to yelling, shouting, spanking or otherwise being harsh with their children. Yet, we know that these practices can be harmful to children's development, to our relationship and well, it's just not a good feeling is it?

Wondering what to do now? How to get back into peaceful, positive, gentle parenting mode? How to heal the relationship between you and your child?

Here are eleven steps to help you restore the peace in your mind and heart and reconnect with your child:

Calm yourself
In the heat of the moment, the best thing you can do is give yourself space to cool off and calm down. Remove yourself from the situation if you need to to keep everyone safe. Don't make any major decisions, just take time to cool off.  Give your child some space, respect them if they choose to have some distance for a while. Once you have had a chance to cool down and reflect you can do a few other things such as:

Accept your mistake
Look deep into your heart and accept yourself for your short comings. Nobody is perfect. Parenting is one tough job,  it doesn't quite come with an instruction manual tailored exactly to your child and some situations just catch us completely off guard. So you made a mistake, accept it so you can start healing.

Don't make excuses
It's not your child's fault. No matter what triggered you to yell, punish, spank, humiliate or shame your child, YOU are the one who took those actions. Yes, you may regret them, you may wish to change them, ,but do not excuse them as necessary to teach a lesson, to make a point or blame the child for making you take such action.  It was your action. Your choice.

Reflect on your triggers
What caused your emotions to get so raw that you lashed out? What things were said, done, not done that created these feelings within you? With that information, try to heal your heart, reflect on better ways to regulate yourself.

Work on self regulation
Learning to cope with our feelings while guiding our children is really important. No matter how much we love our children, they will at some point makes choices that may irritate us, make weird, awkward, strange and annoying choices that spark in  us all sorts of feelings and reactions within us. Learning to curb our reactions and focusing on our role as the parent, the guide, role model is really important.

Find someone you can trust that will listen to you and let out all your frustrations, qualms, insecurities and annoyances towards your child.  It's ok to have these feelings, people can annoy us, even our children. Especially our children! It does not mean we do not love them with all our hearts, it just means we need to vent, to spill the frustration so we can move on.

Gratitude list
Make a list of All the wonderful things about your child.  Think of the ways they make you smile, of all the ways you love them, all the things you want to do together. If you are having a hard time getting started, think of the moment you first held your child. Tape that list somewhere you can see it every day!

Re-Connect and Comfort
When the storm has calmed, reconnect with your child. Start with an apology, Use play, laughter and/or tears to release and process feelings. Listen, really listen. Hug, hug and then hug some more.

A few weeks ago, my six year old and I had a really unusual exchange.  I was exhausted because I had been awake most of the night with my two year old daughter who was sick. My son hadn't slept well either, he was also upset that the previous night we had't had a chance to read together. We were so disconnected that morning, I rushed him, I nagged, he reacted to this unusual exchange with frustration and confusion. We both lost our cool. He called me names, he felt pushed around and really mad. I felt disrespected and really angry. I yelled and I am really not a yeller, but I did, I yelled and it was awful.  We paused. We cooled off.  We took some time to think. We cried, we laughed, we hugged, cuddled, re-connected...we went back to being peaceful. 

Promise to do better
Promise to yourself and to your child that you will try to do better. Continue to arm yourself with knowledge and peaceful parenting inspiration and the support so you can do better next time.

Take care
Parenting is a 24/7 job, especially in the early years, but no matter what, taking a break is important for everyone. Take care of yourself, get enough rest, eat healthy foods, do something you enjoy for yourself. If you are rested and balancing your life you will feel less likely to get aggravated, angry, frustrated and take it out on your child.

Whatever parenting choice you have made that you are not so proud of, try to forgive yourself, let go and move forward. This isn't to say you should not reflect, examine and try to learn from the experience, but beating yourself up with guilt will not help you move forward. All of us parents get to make choices and we all make mistakes in our parenting journey. Forgiving ourselves is the first step in choosing a path that is loving and peaceful. It is a step towards showing our children that compassion, respect and love are choice we know how to make. Choices that hopefully we will remember to make the next time when faced with conflict.

Peace & Be Well,




  1. Great points! Thanks for the article!
    I think the most important is also to forgive oneself, then it is much easier to say "I am sorry!"

    1. Karen, totally agree with the self forgiveness. It really is such an important part of the process because no matter how hard we try we will make mistakes parenting, might as well learn to forgive, learn and move on and try better :) thank you for your comment!

  2. Such a great post! I know I will own up to my mistakes as a parent when these types of occurrences happen, I often feel that these situations just get dropped and looked over by parents. Instead of confronted and discussed.

    1. Mar, thank you for your thoughts!!

  3. One thing a great teacher taught me - don't apologize for getting mad, but you can apologize for yelling, etc: "I got really mad! It's OK to feel angry but I can see that my shouting really upset you. I'm sorry I shouted at you - I'm going to work on how to express myself without shouting."

  4. Yes, modeling that we are resentful of our action but not of our feelings is very important. great point! thank you for that.


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