Connected Parenting

Connected Parenting

How we all make mistakes as parents and repair is what’s needed to get us back on track.

Sometimes as parents, despite our best intentions, we get it wrong.

We yell or snap at our kids. We ‘dig in’ for the sake of being ‘right’. We don’t respond with kindness in a moment that requires connection, because we had our own stuff going on, because we are tired, or because we just got pushed beyond our capacity to stay calm. Often, we sit on the couch later that night once our kids are in bed – and feel terrible.

When this happens there has usually been a ‘rupture’ to our relationship with our child, and what we need to do is ‘repair’ the rupture.

The concept of repair is well documented and according to the Gottman institute is “In relational terms, repair is less about fixing what is broken and more about getting back on track.”

So what exactly is repair? How do we do it and how does it help our kids?

One of the biggest myths about parenting is that there’s an ideal – that it’s even possible to be the parent that our child needs all the time.

Parenting is hard. It’s taxing, it’s physical, and it pushes your buttons in ways you never imagined before kids. Many parents are reporting burn out and fatigue at the moment following COVID 19 and increased pressures at home.

Some days – despite knowing the parent we want to be, we are a different parent – the parent we swore we’d never be.

If you think you are the only parent making these mistakes, you’re not.

And while there is no ‘undo’ in parenting, with repair we can use words that create a ‘reset’.

It takes courage to stop and ask for a do over, but it’s worth it, in both the short and long term, for the sake of your relationship.

Evidence shows that never making a mistake is not what our kids need. But making mistakes, owning them, and taking steps to repair the damage, is. In fact, it’s one of the most useful models a child can have.

Do’s of repair:

  1. Take time to self-regulate first, take a parental time out, or take time to breathe.
  2. Keep the apology short and sweet.
  3. Keep your body open and be ready to listen.
  4. Take responsibility for the part we played in things getting off track.
  5. Talk about ways of dealing with the problem differently in the future.

Don’ts of repair:

  1. Don’t blame our child for the fact we snapped. This might sound like ‘I am sorry but if only you had listened.
  2. Don’t collapse. Collapsing can sound like “I am sorry, I am just so tired, and the baby had me up all night” this can have our kids feeling responsible for our emotions.

Checklist of words you can use in repair when saying sorry.

What words do we use? This can be hard to know, especially if your parents didn’t tend to apologise to you. To make things easier here is a checklist of options you can use for repair:

  • ✔️ Let’s start that again….
  • ✔️I am sorry.
  • ✔️Can I try that again? What I meant to say was….
  • ✔️Can we start over. I didn’t mean to yell and I can see it upset you
  • ✔️Gosh, I really blew that one…..
  • ✔️How can I make things better right now?

The most important aspect is that we are calm and ready to connect and hug when our child is.

The upside of rupture and repair

Our mistakes can be a great moment to model the ability to pause, reflect, change tack, and apologise if necessary. Showing this in ourselves is much more effective than just asking our kids to “say sorry” when they make mistakes.

The other big upside of rupture? The beautiful moments of connection can follow a rupture and repair moment. When we are able to tackle a conflict in a different way or understand a new perspective from our child’s point of view. When we take the time to reset and get back on track our relationships benefit long term.


Gen Muir is an Obstetric Social Worker, Parenting coach, and mum to four boys with a passion for helping parents to understand behaviour and emotion in kids.

With the experience of working with over 40,000 parents through her work at the Mater and privately, Gen has a great understanding of the real challenges facing modern parents.