Let's face it. For most of us, positive parenting doesn't come naturally. Perhaps it wasn't what we were raised with. In the heat of the moment something negative comes out of our mouths and we cringe at how much we sound like our parents. It's so easy to default to the old ways.
Even for someone raised with positive parenting, mistakes will be made because we are human, and no human will achieve perfection this side of heaven.
So the question is not if you will make mistakes in relating to your children, but how can you best recover when a mistake is made.
Following the 3 Rs of Recovery teaches our children a foundational truth:
Making mistakes isn't as important as what we do about them.
The 3 Rs are:
I'll use a recent discipline situation I faced yesterday to illustrate. I was making gluten free german chocolate cupcakes and simultaneously preparing dinner. C wanted to help with the cupcakes. While I was busy at the stove with dinner, she got out a whisk, pulled over a stool, and reached toward the bowl to begin stirring. I was afraid she was going to make too big of a mess, but didn't want to stop what I was doing at the stove to help her. Instead I snapped at her.
"You may NOT stir. Get down right now!" I yelled.
"No, mama, don't talk like that!" she yelled at me.
"I don't like you yelling at me!" I yelled back.
A mistake had been made and we needed to recover before we could continue to work together. Enter the 3 Rs of Recovery. The tool card instructs that before working through the three steps, take time to cool off. In this case, the absurdity of yelling at her that I didn't want to be yelled at stopped me in my tracks and took the wind out of my sails. I was ready to move through the 3 Rs.
This means the mistake, taking responsibility for it rather than trying to blame your child or other circumstances.
I owned to myself that I did not treat my daughter kindly or respectfully. I spoke to her in a way I would not like to be spoken to. Her desire to help was inconvenient to me, but not wrong, and there were other more mature ways I could have chosen to deal with it.
This means apologizing, letting your child know about the mistake, and asking for forgiveness.
I apologized to C for talking to her like that.
This means to work together on a respectful solution.
I said, "You don't like it when I talk to you like that, and I don't like it when you talk to me like that. What can we do? How about we both use kind words and voices from now on?"
I also chose to let go of my fear of mess, embrace C's willingness to help and learn, and enjoy time baking with my daughter. When the cupcakes were baking, I took off her clothes and let her lick the bowl and get covered in chocolate batter, then popped her in the bathtub. The counter didn't take long to wipe down, and we ended the afternoon on a happy note.
There are so many respectful solutions, the only limit is imagination. Hindsight is 20/20 and I see other possibilities could have been:
- Stop what I was doing, move to C's side and kindly but firmly instruct her to wait for me to be done with my tasks at the stove so we could stir the batter together. Make it happen by taking her down and putting away the stool.
- Stop what I was doing, find something else for her to do and kindly but firmly redirect her to that. This could be a somewhat related task (put the cupcake papers in the pans) or a fun distraction (watch a video, play with a toy).
- Delay baking until another time, either when C was already busy elsewhere or when I was not trying to multitask and was more prepared to involve her.