Repairing the Relationship With a Child After a Parental Meltdown

Repairing the Relationship After a Parental Meltdown

I have parental meltdowns. Not often, but occasionally my emotions just seem get the better of me. It could be that I am tired, stressed, disconnected from the kids or my husband or that I have been pushed to the brink by my spirited children. Either way, I know it shouldn’t happen. I know I have to work harder to keep my emotions in check. I know that each time I lose it with my children, it affects them and it affects our relationship.

I have blogged previously about some of these moments but never have i stopped to consider the importance of repairing the relationship with a child following a parental meltdowns. This would be a process whereby I would take responsibility for my actions, swallow my pride and model humility for the benefit of my children and our relationship.

I was able to practice this today and am overwhelmed at the difference it has made in the connection between my daughter and myself.

It all began when I was hanging the washing out. I was just outside the rumpus room and my two daughters Lucy (2.5 years) and Penny (1.5 years) were playing inside with the neighbour’s children (aged 8 and 6 years). The 6-year-old came to me to let me know she thought Penny had a dirty nappy. I thanked her and went straight inside to check.

As I got near to her, the eight year old pointed to the back of Penny’s leg and said ‘what’s that?’ I realised straight away that it was poo coming down the back of her leg and immediately the category one situation got ramped up to a category four!

I let Penny know that I needed to change her nappy and was just going to grab some supplies. As I turned to locate these supplies, a scuffle broke out between Penny and Lucy. I noticed Penny was now sitting on a ride-on car and Lucy was trying to get it from her.

Instead of calmly dealing with this situation, I made the split second decision to grab some wipes from just outside the room before intervening.  As I left the room, I heard Penny’s cries shift from a scuffle whinge to a hurt cry. Sure enough, when I got within range I saw Penny sprawled on the floor and Lucy starting to climb on the car.

One of the older girls let me know that Lucy had pushed Penny. Now, at this point I was actually more cranky with myself for making the poor decision to leave the room than I was with Lucy for pushing Penny but it didn’t manifest that way. I grabbed Lucy quite roughly and abruptly put her on the ground away from the car before picking it up and angrily shouting: “No one is having the car now!” and shoving it up high out of reach without any further explanation.

I then picked Penny up and let her know I was going to change her nappy. I laid a towel on the floor in the room next door and proceeded to do so. Lucy entered the room and in a show of dislike for how the situation was handled, made a swipe at Penny which I was by then able to calmly block and divert with an: “I won’t let you hit Penny.”

After the nappy change, both girls went back to the rumpus room to play whilst I set about cleaning and disinfecting  the car and the floor around the contaminated area. I then offered the cleaned car to Penny who by this stage was not interested and had moved on. I left it sitting there.

I then noticed Lucy sitting at her desk quietly drawing in her art pad. Having had time to reflect on the situation, something told me I needed to make reparations for my  earlier parental meltdown. I knew I had handled the situation poorly and I wanted to try to acknowledge her feelings post event.

I moved near her and initiated a conversation. I started with, “You’re doing some drawings, huh?” and when I didn’t get a negative response I continued, pausing after each statement… “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you. I know you really wanted to sit on the car that Penny was on. I should have been more gentle with you when I moved you away. I was feeling frustrated and worried about all the poo and did not handle my emotions very well. I’m really sorry, sweetheart.”

At this point, Lucy stopped her drawing and stood up on her chair reaching up for me to pick her up. She then wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed me hard into her with her little fingers.

As she cuddled me tightly like this for quite sometime, she calmly and matter-of-factly said: “That was my car.” letting me know with her limited articulation that she probably had the car first. I knew then, that she had been stewing over the incident as well. She had not simply gotten over it and moved on as it can be easy to think. She was internalising the event along with my reaction and further convincing herself that my love for her may not be as strong as it is for Penny or may be that it is conditional.

She continued to cuddle me for what seemed like forever before pulling my cheek towards her and lightly kissing it.

As far as ‘aha’ moments go, this was up there for me. How many times had I lost my temper with the girls but failed to resolve it with them, instead using the benefits of time to cure-all angsts?

Lucy had shown me not in words but in actions that she forgave me and furthermore appreciated that I had taken the time to talk through it with her. By speaking openly with her about my remorse, I could successfully dispel any of those horrible thoughts she may have been having about the depth of my love for her.

I listened to a podcast recently whereby Richard Fidler from ABC Local Conversations spoke with Dr Tina Payne Bryson, a psychotherapist about how a parent’s interaction with their children, particularly in moments of high stress, will affect how their children’s brains are ‘wired’. It was relieving to hear her say that, “it is impossible to be an intentional, thoughtful parent all the time”. She also stated that our children give us, “millions of opportunities to connect with them throughout their lives” through moments that are high stress.

I do think, however, that when I am not ‘thoughtful’ in my interactions with my children in a particular instance, it is important for me to make reparations with them in the aftermath and in doing so, recreate some of those opportunities for connection. It sure felt good doing this today.

You may also enjoy reading:

The Secrets to Successfully Sportscasting my Children’s Squabbles ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Respectful Parenting Is Not Always Easiest ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Bonding to Our Children Through Conflict ~ Janet Lansbury-Elevating Childcare

Repairing the Relationship After a Parental Meltdown

33 thoughts on “Repairing the Relationship With a Child After a Parental Meltdown

  1. Jaimi

    almost made me cry reading your daughters reaction to you saying sorry…the cuddling and the kiss how sweet! makes me want to have talks with my kids:)

  2. Suzanne

    I also think it is important to model for our kids that everyone “loses it” sometimes, and we can show them a healthy way to apologize and make amends. They will need those skills, because, like us, they will never be perfect either. Good going, mom!

  3. Debs

    I totally hear you. I beat myself up bigtime when I realise that I have handle a situation in a way that isn’t reflective of what I am always trying to be and do and teach. I think it’s really important to have these conversations with our children and that we can reflect and apologise to our children where necessary. My daughter is so understanding and wonderful when I say something like, “I’m sorry that I raised my voice at you earlier. Mummy needed to stop and breath and think first before reacting. I’m sorry and I will try to deal with it differently next time.” She will often reply with something like, “That’s ok Mummy. I forgive you. I’m sorry that I acted like that as well.” It’s heart warming and reminds us all that we are human, we make mistakes but we can reflect and learn from them. An important lesson to teach a child.

  4. Kelly Long Burstow

    ‘it is impossible to be an intentional, thoughtful parent all the time’ – so good to hear. I used to beat myself up a lot for, essentially, not being a perfect parent. Interestingly, it’s that pressure that led to more melt-downs on my part. Now, I’ve learned to feel what I feel, minimise stress, and — yes to be as calm as I can…but in that, I’ve also found that raw honesty is a beautiful thing when I stuff up (which is still often). I’d be interested in following some of the links you put there from Janet Lansbury, Lisa Sunbury Gerber and Magda Gerber.

    1. Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

      That podcast was one of the best things I have heard all year. Those simple words, that it is impossible to be perfect all the time and that it ultimately doesn’t matter as long as time is taken to reconnect after meltdowns, were like music to my ears too. Janet Lansbury and co have been life changers in our household. I began following Janet’s blog when my youngest was about 6 months and since then have experienced so much more relief and joy in parenting compared to the enormous stress I felt previously. I highly recommend having a look. xx

  5. Nae Peters

    I love this & I am having a teary moment 🙁 I need to respond more instead of reacting, after bub #2 was born my stress level with my son have increased 5 fold, he’s had a hard time to adjust to divided attention & is having some temporary hearing problems so his behavior has been difficult and I often, more often then not, react in the moment as this grumpy stressed out Muma (I hate it, I need to work on it) & I instantly feel remorse like you said. I often think “why did I say/do that, I could have handled that much better) Im working on it & I think after his ear operation things will improve.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is a good reminder that you can reconnect, say sorry and get another chance.

    1. Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

      Thank you, Nae. Bringing a new baby into your home is a stressful time for the whole family. Your son will go through this phase of testing behaviours to make sure of his security in the family. It is a big change for him. In fact, Janet Lansbury and Magda Gerber suggest the older sibling grieves for their old life (pre baby) and need to be reassured that despite having a younger sibling, you will always love and be there from them. I am sure you are doing a wonderful job. Don’t be too hard on yourself. And yes, his ear operation is sure to make a huge difference – we have had the same issues here! Good luck xx

  6. Kate

    Such a sweet ending to your story 🙂 When I read the situation I couldn’t help thinking you actually handled it quite well, poo on everything is very stressful! I went to a Positive Parenting information night recently and one of the best things I got out of it was when the speaker said to ditch the guilt. She explained that when you lose your temper or react badly to difficult situations it’s not going to cause any permanent damage to your kids so long as you are giving them plenty of positive attention most of the time. Great post 🙂

  7. Rachel | Racheous

    I can really relate to this. Genuinely apologising to your children when you are in the wrong and teaching them through your imperfections are hugely positive things that many well meaning parents do not do.

  8. Danya Banya

    I’ve had a few minor meltdowns lately (usually when I’m tired), and I agree with you that apologising to my kids has been really helpful. I’ve noticed that JJ will tell me what I did wrong “you said what you said too quickly and you hurted my feelings and then I cried” which is great practice for her to explain her emotions and learn how to handle these situations in the future. And we will hug and forgive each other and move on.

  9. Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky

    This is hitting me right in the heart. I’ve been SO much more grumpy since the birth of my second child (now six months old) and much more short tempered with my three year old. I hate myself sometimes. This isn’t the mummy that I want to be.
    I will listen to that podcast and practice being more intentional and peaceful.

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  11. Ms. S

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder on asking children for forgiveness. I needed to hear this! While I feel remorseful when I melt down, I may had simply said I’m sorry or if they ran off playing thinking they are okay, I wouldn’t say anything. 🙁 I see that is wrong of me and I need to make a heart and mind connection! I am glad to know, that no matter the age, I must take the time to stop. It can lead to healing and have the makings of a better relationship. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

      1. Ms. S

        Thank you for your kind words. I have been trying to be more mindful since my reading your post. It IS changing us for the better already! Thank you!

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  16. Jaime

    I absolutely love the honest and empathetic approach you all offer. For the past two years I have been sharing your articles on my Facebook parenting group and believe I have evolved so much as a parent of three and LPC in EC because of what you share. I have been teaching another parenting curriculum that included a great deal of what you suggest but there are some major differences and I would much rather teach a curriculum that was entirely devlo

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  20. allyson

    Thank you for writing this….i am a single mom of a 2.5 year old and an 6.5 month old and have been losing my tact with my toddler. I feel horrible because I know he is in a transition of not seeing his dad much. I hate when my stress gets the best of me because he is only 2.5 (a bright boy) who can articulate my response to him. Everyday I try so hard and I am starting to think I dont deserve my kids. For the most part we have a great time together but night time rolls around and like clock work, he is wired when I am so tired I cant even think straight. My mom was a screamer and as much as i love and appreciate her, I am always annoyed by her criticism. My boys are everything, why am I doing this?


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