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Repairing Restores

We all blow it. We lose our temper. We yell at our kids or hurt their feelings.

Dad apologizing to his daughter

Even that perfect family down the street . . . they overreact sometimes, too. Well, maybe not them. But for the rest of us, it’s human.

“How come you are alway so . . .!”

“Why can’t you just . . .!”

“You can go to your chair in the corner and think about what you did . . .!”

I won’t say blowing up never works because, yes, often it does. But our children’s sense of connection is fragile. After a blow up, we typically feel lousy, they haven’t learned anything, and we’re disconnected. Alone. Stranded. On separate islands.

(Sidebar: Give yourself a break. You are doing the best that you can; parenting is complicated, confusing, and stressful. The repair is an essential tool for your toolbox.)

Make a Moment

Admitting we made a mistake is never fun. And since we are perfect, it must be their fault, right?!

  • "I had such a hard day; everything at work went wrong. And you wouldn’t brush your teeth which you know makes me so mad. If you could just do what you’re told, I wouldn’t have to yell . . .”

  • “I can't believe you spilled juice all over the floor again! Now I have to clean it up, and I don't have time for this. You’ve made me late for work. You need to be more careful or else you aren’t going to be allowed juice in the morning anymore."

  • “I can't believe you're still playing video games when you have a project due tomorrow. I am so sick of your attitude. You're never going to get anywhere in life if you don't take responsibility for your actions. You need to stop being lazy and start taking things seriously.

Separate what they did (not listening, making a mistake, being irresponsible) from what came out of your mouth). No, you are not saying that their behavior was acceptable nor are you groveling for their approval.

  • "Hey, I wanted to talk to you about last night. I don’t know what got into me. I had such a hard day; everything at work went wrong. I was tired and at the end of my rope—and I took my frustration out on you by yelling. I am sure that hurt your feelings. I am really sorry."

  • I'm sorry for getting upset earlier when you spilled juice on the floor. I know accidents happen, and I shouldn't have reacted that way. It's not fair for me to blame you for making me late for work. Let's work together to clean it up and get ready for the day. And let's come up with a plan to prevent accidents like this from happening in the future."

  • Hey, can we talk for a moment? I know I got frustrated earlier, and I'm sorry for the way I spoke to you. I understand that you have a project due tomorrow and I want to support you in finishing it on time. I also know that playing video games is important to you, but right now it's getting in the way of your responsibilities. How can we work together to make sure you finish your project on time and still have some time to relax and do things you enjoy?

Why it Works

Repairing restores connection. When we can model accountability for our own actions, understand that our children might have hurt feelings, and show them we care, they can relax and feel safe again.

Repairing gives you a moment to demonstrate raw vulnerability, honesty, and ‘human-ness.’ You are not excusing their behavior or recanting whatever it was that you yelled about. And, you are explaining your performance, and definitely not defending it.

You’ve heard of neuroplasticity. The plasticity part refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt throughout life. When you repair with your child, you are engaging in a positive interaction that strengthens the neural pathways in their brain responsible for healthy relationships and emotional regulation. By promoting this plasticity, you are helping your child develop greater resilience and adaptability, even in the face of stress and adversity. In other words, repairing with your child has a profound impact on their brain development and emotional well-being, and helps them navigate the ups and downs of life more effectively.

No, we are not going to let them get away with arguing about teeth brushing every night. But, connection first.


Be aware: try to catch yourself using an apology as an excuse, and simply be honest instead. Just try Part I for now. Distraction would be an easy one, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry; I wasn’t paying attention. Could you tell me that again?” Starting small will help to build a habit.

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