Our family therapist is one of my very favorite people. She validates our experiences and feelings. She gives us all big ideas, little techniques, and shares wisdom and failures from her own parenting and life journey. My kiddo hugs her and considers her family. She also swears, which just makes me feel good!
This is my very best lesson from her. It’s too good to keep to myself.
After there is an argument, a defiant fight that escalated, a total meltdown in public, or a scary rage at home…
Before working out the issue, problem solving, talking about the natural consequences, or any other “parenting”… reconnect. This kind of rupture makes kiddo and parent feel disconnected and on opposing sides, instead of on the same team. I should try to be the bigger, stronger, calmer adult who can first get myself calm and then soothe my kiddo. Cuddle, foot rubs, tickles, reassuring words (“I love you no matter what. I love you when you’re angry, and happy, and sad, and scared.”) so that my child feels that my love is not contingent.
Before anything, repair the disconnected relationship in a loving way.
If your hackles are raised (“This is rewarding “bad behavior” with something good! What on earth?!”) then consider this;
Reconnecting first teaches my kiddo that I care about HER more than a single situation. And for a kid from hard places or a kid whose brain might interpret the world around them in a unique way, this is a very important feeling that must be made explicit.
Any “parenting” I try to do before calming myself and reconnecting with my kiddo will always be met with defensiveness or outright hostility because our trust and connection are weak in that moment. We work hard to teach our girl that we do not punish, BUT there are natural consequences to choices/behaviors and our job is to discipline her in a true way. Discipline meaning to teach, guide and coach. I am the guard rails, not the puppetmaster. There should always be learning when I am “parenting”. Learning can’t happen with a stressed, angry brain. So. Reconnect first. Give a little breathing room for the relationship to heal and grow back together. Then guide and teach from a place of love and compassion.
I realize not all family dynamics are the same. Not all parents have kids from hard places who have extra complicated emotions, needs and fears. But I have to imagine that a world of humans that always seek connection first before attempting to resolve issues/conflict/differences is a world worth pursuing. One complicated situation, in our homes that nobody ever knows about, at a time. Because we will be modeling this skill for our kids, over and over. And they will carry this vision of compassionate reparations into their lives.
And sometimes it takes being up all night to let myself feel my own feelings, feel how a situation hurt or affected me, so that I can calm myself. Be compassionate with myself. So that I can put that aside, and meet my child where she is.