Strategy for Repair: Immediately after your Anger

The sense of shame I feel immediately after I’ve lost my rag with one of our kids is awful. They’re my least favourite moments as a Mum. Yes, usually it’s with the Hare – bless his little button-pushing socks. Particularly with him, we’ve been working hard to repair the connection after an angry moment – and it’s not always easy ’cause he’s nine, so he’s starting to do that thing kids do when their eyes are looking at us, but they just ain’t seeing… I’ve tried ‘calling him back’ – making sure the glazed look is gone, before I speak with him. And that’s worked well. But then I discovered this great strategy while reading ‘The Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield (you know, the Chicken Soup for the Soul guy). Based on my background and knowledge, I’ve added in a step and added some extra ideas, because that’s just the kind of thing I do. And blow me down: it works.

Say child crosses road right in front of a car.

We are angry and say something like, “That was dumb! Why did you do that? Where are your brains…etc…etc” I’m sure you can fill in your own words here – and this bit, most of us have under control. LOL (No, you don’t have to be angry – but most of us are automatically in this kind of situation. Call it shock.)

So then, we realise what we have just said to our darling child and we know that wasn’t REALLY what we wanted to tell our kid, but our emotions hijacked our brains, and that’s never pretty.

So, then as soon as we think of it (using ‘I’) we add on to the end…

1. Our first emotional reaction…(fright, shock or surprise)

“I got a dreadful fright.”

2. Our fear, embarrassment or frustration…

“I was scared you were going to get run over.”

“I was embarrassed because I was just telling X how sensible you are.”

“I was frustrated because we’ve talked about this 1000 times before.”

2. Then we state our request…

“Next time, please check the road is safe before you cross.”

3. Then we state our love…

“I would terribly upset if you were hurt by a car.”

Suddenly, you’ve got a whole different message – plus a whole lot of training in emotional intelligence, and you all know how much I love THAT.

And the really fabulous thing is we’re talking the older boys through the process with each other.

“Don’t you take that bit of lego, you little expletive,” becomes…

“Don’t you take that bit of lego, you little expletive…(then with me) I got a shock when you grabbed the piece I needed. I am frustrated that you always want the piece I’m just about to use. Can we discuss what we need before we start. I really like to play with you when we aren’t arguing.”

Pinning the Hare down to admit he enjoyed the Owl’s company was an interesting experience to begin with. At first he didn’t want to even admit there were times they got on well together – yet they get on well most of the time. The second time we tried this, he managed to say the words clearly (not mumble under his breath) and make eye-contact with the Owl. And the relationship was immediately calm and they went off to play together far happier and far quicker than usual after a bit of a tussle.

Yeeha, I love it when I find a strategy that works. It feels a bit unnatural still, and I can see this will take some work before it becomes automatic. But it’s made the last few days (the boys were exhausted and a bit growly) a lot calmer than I would have expected given the circumstances. Even better, I felt I was *managing* rather than heading wild horses off at the pass. LOL

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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26 Responses to Strategy for Repair: Immediately after your Anger

  1. “I love it when I find a strategy that works. It feels a bit unnatural still, and I can see this will take some work before it becomes automatic.”

    I feel the same way!! But I’ve been trying some of your suggestions with my nathan (like your hare, but only 3.5) and its been going well about 75% of the time 🙂

    Hope this strategy becomes natural and comes out of you like your breath 😉

    • kloppenmum says:

      I’m pleased it’s going well 75% of the time for you Jessica. This strategy still feels like I’m reading from a script at the moment, but I’m sure it will become automatic…eventually. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. lol @ the last line. Your posts are interesting and thought-provoking, including for those of us not parenting young tykes. 🙂

    • kloppenmum says:

      Luckily the last line isn’t a common happening in our house – more moments of fleeting madness, when one or other of us is feeling tired or overwhelmed. Pleased I’m keeping you entertained…Perhaps I could change the focus to strategies for managing other people, and not just kids!

  3. Pingback: Empowering Mothers, part 4, Avoiding Battles « The Education Cafe

  4. Love the NVC-styled approach and how you tweaked it for your personal use.

    Beautiful idea, and nice to be reminded of the fact that we can and ought to reconnect when there’s been a disruption to our normal connected flow with our kids.

    And as always, I also really appreciate your candor.

    Thanks for another great read!

    Be well.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Nathan,
      I’m not familiar with much Non Violent Communication, so it’s interesting to me that you identify this strategy as fitting with that approach. As for the candor: I feel it’s vital – I wouldn’t be at all comfortable sharing the theory without showing how it might work in practise, warts and all. Thanks for commenting, your input is always valued.

  5. Melissa says:

    Hi, I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now. Your ideas and insights have been helpful to me – thank you!

    This strategy reminds me of 3-part “I statements” as described in Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) by Dr. Thomas Gordon (1975). Essentially, they are structured thus:
    1. Nonblameful description of unacceptable behavior (behavior meaning actions or words)
    2. Feeling about the behavior
    3. How behavior affects you – tangible and concrete effect
    “When you left the gas tank almost empty (description) I was upset (feeling) because I had to stop to get it filled and that made me late for work.”(effect)

    Seems similar to what you are describing, minus the love message. It is a way of structuring what you really want to convey, without the heat and blame. Opens the door for empathy to occur.

    Anyway, I just wanted to pass that on. I find it interesting that the same ideas keep getting packaged up and delivered in different ways (NVC, PET, Success Principles, etc.) It must mean there is truth inside. Anything that nurtures and deepens the bond between humans has got to be good in my opinion. 🙂

    Thanks for the post!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Melissa,
      I’m pleased the ideas here have been useful for you. I am always keen to nurture bonds between people, particularly between parents and their children. There seems to be so much advice around, which does the opposite to this – and that worries me. I guess, in the end, all we can do – is all we can do. Thanks for your support and for commenting.

  6. Elena says:

    Love it! It fits into the rule of three, which always helps me to remember stuff (emotion, request, love… got it! 😉 ) Teaching kids to use it to seems like it would make it even more effective within the family, because they would be able to see how it works from the other side, see that it’s a genuine connection, and come to join, in an effective way, the general project of living a loving, understanding family! I am definitely going to present this to my people as a strategy for the aftermath of a blowout (of which I am all too often the culprit, but I can see my kids falling into the habit.)

    On a side note, I absolutely love your line, “bless his little button-pushing socks” and I want to use that too! 😀

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Elena,
      Always lovely to have your comments. Let me know how it goes getting the rest of the family to use this strategy, as I said, I was surprised at how hard the Hare initially found it to admit he enjoyed the Owl’s company – yet they get on well most of the time. And go ahead and use…”bless his…socks”…it’s a great sanity saver! LOL

  7. otownmommy says:

    I want to thank you for helping me get back on track. Your methods of dealing and teaching children are really beneficial. I wish I had read this lesson a few months back when Loveliness was running around the parking lot, in a city that wasn’t our own and almost fell off the side of a cliff. My first reaction was definately “shock”. I hope you don’t mind me lurking around a bit. Its very rare that I get extra time to browse more than the newest entry of my favorite blogs. Yours is definately worth staying around and reading as many entries as I can. Advice Gold!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi otownmommy,
      Oh no, a parking-lot and cliff incident…that would have put me into ‘shock’ as well. I’m pleased you’re finding some useful information here, it’s always good to hear back from other parents. Thank you so much for your support…lurk away…it makes my stat counter increase, and I get to think I’m popular. 🙂 Have a great day.

  8. We’ve been working with our boys for a while now to name their emotions instead of socking or kicking each other. It’s working well. They are verbal with other kids too and it really helps their interactions most of the time. Sometimes in large groups when there are plenty of options and kids to play with, I’ve been telling him to go do something else because not everyone is interested in working it out (or care what he thinks). My eldest has gotten his feelings hurt when he tries to explain the issue and the other kid doesn’t care or respond, and continues to the same thing. Any suggestions for this case? Sometimes I think I’ve overdone the sensitivity training if you know what I mean?

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Cori,
      Oh poor kid, that’s awful for him. I don’t think there is anything wrong in teaching our kids to avoid people who are unpleasant. In that situation, I would give a Boring Cuddle (Quick way to stop Children fussing post) and affirm he’s done the right thing, but that some people don’t know how to interact fairly, and that it’s OK for him to find someone else to play with or even play alone. Sounds like the same approach you have used, anyway? The only thing I would add is a Day Story (Autobiography post) that night, so he can rationalise it with you in the safety of your arms. Sensitive kids are very good at working out who is playing fair, and they are a lot more aware of other people than those who aren’t. It is difficult to see your kid dealing with this as a parent, and it’s good that he can learn to deal with it while he is young and you are there to help him. Hope that helps a bit. Let me know how he and you get on. Karyn

  9. adhdwith3 says:

    It’s good to know other moms have those moments too–
    I think that that’s a good idea for your kids to understand the emotions you go through–that your anger is often coming out of love and a desire to keep them safe.

    • kloppenmum says:

      I agree: our emotions are normal, and I love that other parents have these moments – otherwise the guilt would be overwhelming! Thanks for commenting. I love getting feedback. 🙂

  10. QueenArtLady says:

    Interesting. I can see me using this technique. At what age would you suggest (or did the research suggest) to get children to do it as well?

    I have been implementing a few ideas you have written about. I have been using the ‘eye trick’ to connect with my children. I don’t know if I am doing it right tough – my 2 year old daughter tries to open her eye and raise her eyebrows and giggles every time I have tried to do it with her. Which looks hilarious so we both start to giggle and connect. I decided that the end result is the same – we are connecting and that is all that matters 😉
    Best wishes

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi there,
      This is a technique for adults, so you would have to just play it by ear for your kids. Our Hare is nine, and it’s been a great strategy for him – not sure what the Owl (nearly six) is making of it all. I wouldn’t worry about getting the eye-contact technique exactly right, if your daughter is mimicing you and you’re ending up laughing together -I agree, it’s all good. Our 18 month old has the same reaction, but the older kids don’t. Perhaps tone the movements down a bit, if you think it’s a problem.
      How’s the process to adopt a Christchurch family going?

  11. faemom says:

    I’ve got to write this on my hand, so I don’t forget.

  12. Pipi says:

    Yeaa, Karyn! I totally agree, children must never see us getting angry at them without a reason, it will create a big question mark above their head, and most will probably think that we hate them as a person, not their actions. So after the scream, there must come the explanation! Otherwise, our child will have a low self esteem, scared to do anything.

    Love this post!

    • kloppenmum says:

      I agree that connecting with our children after we’ve been angry is really important. A lot of how people feel about themselves comes from their connections with their parents. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  13. Simmone says:

    A great strategy! I wish I knew about it earlier today. My 8 and a half year old son elbowed his almost five year old sister, which could have resulted in her falling into a fast flowing river. I gasped in shock and then wait for it; I actually tapped the side of his head as I demanded a response to “what were you thinking”? I felt so bad afterwards, he’s a highly emotive kid, as am I, and I know he felt bad, I wish I had taken the time to repair. Parenting is so you at times! Thanks for sharing your strategies.

    • ‘Parenting is so you’: that’s for sure! You can still use this well after and event. I often talk to our eldest two boys (10 nad seven) about mistakes I’ve made in parenting in the past so that they can make sense of it all and move on. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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