Rafed English

Let Them Back In

Okay, so you've had a fight with your child. Maybe you handled it well, or maybe not (you're only human). But you're a Rules parent anyhow, so it can't have been that bad. Your child, on the other hand, was well out of order and sent to her room.

What happens next? This is critical, and I've made it a Rule because I've seen parents get this horribly wrong. Their child comes back downstairs, contrite, even apologetic, and their parent lays into them again about how badly they've behaved. Next thing they're on the defensive, arguing back, and sent to their room again. Or maybe the parent just stops speaking to them for a while and goes into a sulk.

Either way you're not allowing the child to escape from the bad feelings that they've just been trying to come to terms with. I heard a parent recently say to a child who apologized to them, "The important thing is not to apologize. The important thing is not to do it again." Quite true, of course, but not the time to say it. The poor child obviously felt he was still in trouble and unforgiven, and I could see his face crumple.

The most important thing of all is for your child to know that you still love her. She also needs to know that there's some point in apologizing and determining to modify her behavior. If you're still angry with her, why did she bother? So when the fight is over, let her know she's loved and welcomed back into your affection. And that you appreciate her apology and her ability to recognize that she was (at least partly) responsible for the fight.

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