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Guide Overview

Leading the Repair Process

Conflict is a normal and important part of the parent/child relationship. The key is in learning how to lead the repair process.
February 24, 2023
Summary Notes

- Being a secure parent does not mean being a perfect parent. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.

- You need to be a leader in the repair process. Model for your child how to get back in sync with others, so they can learn this skill for their future relationships.

- To make a repair with your child, you need to first calm your own body. If you are tense, your child will receive this energy and the repair will not be effective.

- If you need to calm down, it is okay to let your child know this and take a moment to reset.

- Your relationship with your children is the most important thing to you, and nothing else, such as a messy room or a difficult situation, should come before it.

- Instead of justifying yourself, apologize for not responding with patience, or being harsh. Show your child that you care about what's going on for them, even if you couldn't handle it in the moment.

- Ruptures are a normal part of parenting, and it doesn't matter if the cause is something you or your child did or something outside of your control.

- You, as the grown-up, should take responsibility to calm your body and get back in sync with your child, helping them learn the cycle of rupture to repair.

- It is okay to have moments of struggle and imperfection. Even the best parents have moments when they don't handle a situation as well as they would have liked.

- Your child may reach for you in difficult moments, and it is important to recognize this and respond with care and support.

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 I wanna remind you all that being a secure parent does not mean being a perfect parent. There literally is no such thing. And even when you're sitting here learning from me, you probably are projecting an image onto the way I interact with my kids all the time. And the truth is that I have a pattern of interacting with them, but I absolutely get outta sync with them, get harsh with them, lose my patience with them because I have three.

and they're all people, and sometimes they're loud and I'm overstimulated, or sometimes I'm not sleeping because they're sick. You are not supposed to be perfect, but you do need to be the leader in terms of the repair process. They need you to model what happens when we get out of sync and how someone can get back into sync with someone else so that they can build those skills over their lifetime and learn to do the same things and their relationships with their partners, with their friends, and eventually, With their kids.

The first step to making a repair with your child is to be able to calm your own body. So even if we say sorry to our children or we go over and we try and reconnect, if we are living in a tense triggered space in that moment, that is the energy our child will receive and we won't be able to repair. I regularly say, in front of my children, Oh, give me a minute.

I'm really, I'm really struggling to calm my body down. Hold on. I'm gonna go calm my body down and reset. I'll be right back. I don't want you to have to absorb this. And they get it. They're like, mom is tense, or she's stressed. And I leave usually like just to the other room. And I sit there for a minute and I go like this.

I'm gonna literally do whatever I can to help bring my body down. And then I usually say something in my head, very simple, like there's nothing in the world more important than my relationship to my children. Like nothing matters more to me, not my rug, that they just spilled strawberry milk all over.

Not being in control of the outcome of what they're feeling about something. Not even the ease of getting them out the door without 12 meltdowns. Nope, none of that matters to me more than my relationship to them. Return and I find a way to apologize even if I'm not taking ownership over what they've done or what got triggered, even if it all makes sense, I say something along the lines of like, I'm so sorry I wasn't able to hear you.

Or, I'm so sorry I responded without a lot of patience. Or, I was feeling kind of harsh. Hey kid, I'm so sorry you were trying to tell me something and I was really distracted or, and you know, there's a flip side of that where we can come in and justify ourselves so we can. Listen, I know you wanted an orange, but don't ask me when I'm on the phone or Right.

There's this kind of sense of like, the problem between us is your fault and your perspective. So we really wanna step back from that if we're doing that and means we're not calm yet. Right. And we aren't saying, Hey, I shouldn't have been on the phone. No. Like life, phone work, people things. That's not what we're trying to communicate.

We're trying to communicate. I care about what's going on for you. I couldn't do it in that moment, but I'm gonna do it in this moment. Right. That's the. So that couldn't happen. And there are so many situations with our kids where the rupture is just necessity. There's like no other way around it. Right? I can think of times when I have accidentally scared my children when I'm like pulling them out of the, you know, oncoming something dangerous.

Not like a trainer or anything. I haven't had to do that yet, but, you know, hang around with training jacks all that much. Anyway, I took Chris. , the rupture happens. It really doesn't matter whether that rupture was about something going on with them, something going on with you or something neither of you can control.

The point is that you are saying, Hey, we're outta sync. I as the grownup are gonna calm my body down in order to get back in sync with your body to help you learn the cycle and process of rupture to repair. Husband was out of town this weekend and so I had my twin three year olds and my seven and a half year old.

And my twin three year olds are kind of extra right now cuz they're three and they take up a lot of space and need a lot of attention. And they were particularly escalated at the end of the night when I was trying to get everybody to bed. And my seven year old went into this whiny mode because he was absorbing all of the whininess from them.

And he hadn't been getting a lot of like undivided attention from me. And my brain was just like, Like I cannot handle this. I can handle the two. I'm over here like trying to be as calm as I, again, with the three year olds, but like, I need you to be like a mini adult right now and not need anything from me.

It's not my proudest parenting moment happens though, and I recognize that my son was reaching for me and needing me in a moment, and I literally could not give it to him because we were gonna stay up all. Right if I continued to go leave the room to talk to him, the girls are like little magnets. They just get up out of their beds and leave and there was like, this is, I like, I have to get them to bed and asleep first so that I could truly give him what he was actually needing from me, which wasn't another second of a response.

He was actually needing some connection with me. So after I had snapped a few times, I knew he was in his bedroom. He had, he had like shut his door tightly. I could hear him go falling. There was a lot of like, like communicating to me like, I'm still not okay, mom. Like, hurry your butt up. And I waited until I knew I could safely leave the girls and knew they would stay in their beds and I could come to him and I knocked him his door and I was like, pause, sorry.

I knocked onto his door and I just said, I'm so sorry. I could not melt and be tender with you and you needed me to. And he was like, and we probably spent a good five minutes with him, still kind of in a defensive space. He was like in a little corner in his bed and he would pull his covers down and glare at me and pull him back up, right?

And it was like he's communicating to me this is how that felt. And I sat there and I observed it with him and I was like, I'm so sorry. And I waited and I waited. Listened in the sense that I listened with my body, with my nervous system to the energy he was telling me he had until he could really tell I had fully received it without defensiveness, without trying to make it not feel it.

And then at some point I said like, do we need like a, like a makeup candy? Like maybe we need to have a little bit of some of that chocolate bar the way home here. And I was like, yeah. I was like, okay. And we went and we had some time and we read some books and we reconnected and I got him to. . So that process of recognizing, Hey, we're outta sync, if you can't recognize that, it's gonna be hard to repair.

You know, recognize what's outta sync and you wanna move towards your child saying, sorry, taking ownership of whatever it was that was getting in the way of what they were wanting or needing from you. And then thinking of it as like a doover, I even say to my kids sometimes, like, kind I of a do over this is what I wish I had said, or this is how I wish I had reacted.

Um, or this is what I wish I had been true in that moment. I really wish that we had had that. . You know, I think a lot of us had to do repairs around covid life, right? Because all of a sudden our resources and our support systems got stripped from us. And so who we were as parents was different than who we are in an environment where we have more support.

Um, the third piece of repair is really making sure that your child has the time to give you the information about what it. That was frustrating, hard, difficult, or disconnecting for them in that dynamic with you. And this is a really kid to kid thing. Like what bothers one kid won't bother another kid?

So the repair process is not simply like, well, I said the thing and I did the thing and you should accept it. It's like, gosh, I'm trying to connect to you and it's not working. Like there's something I'm not getting. What do, what do you need me to get about? What's outta sync for us? Right? Um, and knowing that you're gonna do this every single day of your relationship with.

Pretty much, and as they grow when they get older, it may not happen as frequently. It's, it's much more likely to happen in those younger years when they are so full of emotions and needs and you are overstimulated. But it happens a lot also in the teenage years for parents as they are developing more autonomy.

So you want to sort of have this mindset of. This is something we're gonna do. It doesn't mean I'm failing as a parent. It doesn't mean they're failing as a child. It means we are learning the dance of the rupture to repair cycle so that they can take that and learn how to grow their relationships and learn things about the people they care about through the process of a healthy, cooperative conflict resolution experience.

Good luck.