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  • If You Want To Be A Good Parent, You Just Need To Remember This One Word

    Your child does not need a perfect parent, she just needs one who can own up to her mistakes.
    by Ronna Capili Bonifacio .
If You Want To Be A Good Parent, You Just Need To Remember This One Word
  • There is likely no parent who has never regretted something they did or said to their child. It might be snapping at your toddler who needed help because you were so tired from managing the house, or a child who was asking for a little extra screen time only to get a ‘Puro ka nalang gadgets!’, because you were feeling pressure at work.

    Dr. Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist, best-selling author and founder of international parenting content and community Good Inside has been there too. Yes, even a mom whose profession hinges on helping parents to be better loses it on their kid. So you can bet that even the Smart Parenting team and celebrity cover families, even if they’re featured in content, have their own fair share of moments they regret with their kids.

    All parents yell. No one knows what to do next,” Kennedy said during her recent September 2023 Ted Talk. It’s not perfect parents kids need, it’s parents who know how to repair.


    The most important parenting strategy 

    “Whenever a parent asks me, ‘What one parenting strategy should I focus on?’ I always say the same thing: ‘Get good at repair.’”

    She defines repair as “the act of going back to a moment of disconnection. Taking responsibility for your behavior and acknowledging the impact it had on another.” But take note that’s it is not the same as apologizing. “And I want to differentiate a repair from an apology, because when an apology often looks to shut a conversation down–'Hey, I’m sorry I yelled. Can we move on now?’”

    Kennedy adds, “Good repair opens one up.” The mom of three reminds parents that repair assumes that “there’s been a rupture”. All parents will attest to having done that, probably more than we’d like to admit.

    “So to repair, you have to mess up or fall short of someone else's expectations. Which means the next time I snap at my kid, or my husband, or my work colleague, instead of berating myself… I try to remind myself I'm focusing on getting good at repair.”

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    RELATED: So You Shouted At Your Kid–Here's What You Need To Do Next To Avoid Making It Worse

    What happens when we don’t repair

    Kennedy explains that when children are distressed, they will go to the coping mechanism of self-blame which sounds like: “Something’s wrong with me. I’m unlovable. I make bad things happen.” Or “Kasalanan ko. Matigas kasi talaga ang ulo ko. Bad kasi ako.”

    This mechanism helps children make sense of things in the moment but when brought into adulthood, it sounds like: “Something’s wrong with me. I make bad things happen. I’m unlovable.” Sounds familiar?

    'There's no exact formula [to repair]. I often think about three elements: name what happened, take responsibility, state what you would do differently.' —Dr. Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist

    “These are the core fears of so many adults. But really, we see here, they are actually the childhood stories we wrote when we were left alone following distressing events that went unrepaired,” said Kennedy.

    “Plus, adults with self-blame are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, deep feelings of worthlessness–none of which we want for our kids. And we can do better.”


    What repair does

    Repairing with your child is not just removing their story of self-blame. It allows parents to add in what was missing during that heated moment, like safety, connection, coherence, love, and goodness. “It's as if you're saying to a child, 'I will not let this chapter of your life end in self-blame. Yes, this chapter will still contain the event of yelling, but I can ensure this chapter has a different ending, and therefore a different title, and theme and lesson learned.'"

    How to repair: Just remember two steps

    1. Repair with yourself

    “You can't offer compassion or groundedness or understanding to someone else before you access those qualities within yourself. Self-repair means separating your identity, who you are, from your behavior, what you did.”

    That means you can still be a good parent (identity) who was struggling at that moment and yelled (behavior). Remind yourself that two things are true. 


    When repairing, avoid non-apologies that sound like 'I'm sorry I shouted pero kung sinunod mo ako, hindi ako sumigaw.'

    “For me, it means telling myself two things are true. I’m not proud of my latest behavior and my latest behavior doesn't define me.” But remember that we, parents, still need to take responsibility for our actions. Sometimes we repair ourselves but stop there, and it can appear to the child that we just let ourselves off the hook and did not take accountability for our behavior.

    After you’ve calmed yourself down, you are in a better position to help your child.

    2. Repair with your child.

    “There's no exact formula. I often think about three elements: name what happened, take responsibility, state what you would do differently the next time.”

    That might sound like: “Anak, naalala mo noong sumigaw ako? Mali si Mama. I’m sorry. Hindi mo naman kasalanan. I’m trying to learn paano maging calm kahit na wala na akong pasensya.”

    Kennedy’s script at the Ted Talk sounded like this, “"Hey. I keep thinking about what happened the other night in the kitchen. I'm sorry I yelled. I'm sure that felt scary. And it wasn't your fault. I'm working on staying calm, even when I'm frustrated."


    The impact of repair

    While it will take getting used to, especially if you did not grow up to the model of repairing or even apologizing, Kennedy poses that this practice will bear fruit in your child’s adult years. And if you’re an adult who recognizes the voice of self-blame, her proposal is worth considering.

    “What might that look like in adulthood? My adult child won’t spiral in self-blame when they make a mistake, and won’t take on blame for someone else’s mistake. My adult child will know how to take responsibility for their behavior, because you've modeled how to take responsibility for yours.”

    Kennedy also reminds parents that when repairing, avoid non-apologies which could sound like "I'm sorry I shouted pero kung sinunod mo ako, hindi ako sumigaw," or "I'm sorry nainis ako, ang kulit mo kasi."

    She reminds, “Repairing with a child today sets the stage for these critical adult relationship patterns.”



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