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The Best Policy

So hands up everyone who made it through all those weeks of lockdown without having a single meltdown…


Thought so. You’d have to be some kind of mythical being not to have lost your rag with someone or other during these exceptionally hard times, and children can’t have escaped being in the firing line. Even though we know they are under stress too, they’ll behave in ways that really push our buttons and make it impossible for us to take that into account. Blow-ups are bound to occur, but when they do, the important thing is how we deal with the situation afterwards.

Don’t underestimate how powerful it is to come clean about your conduct. If you admit to your children that you lost control, that your temper got the better of you and made you behave in a less than ideal way, then you are opening up a conversation about how difficult it can be to deal with strong emotions. If you can talk through your own emotional response with your child, then you are helping them understand that their feelings are part and parcel of being human and that all of us have to find ways to cope with them to avoid hurting those we love.

The same is true of apology. If things have really gotten out of hand, offering an apology to your child is incredibly powerful and models that behaviour to them, so they should find it easier to apologise themselves when the situation warrants it. My own rule of thumb is to put myself in the child’s position, or to imagine that I have behaved that way to an adult - if I’d spoken that way to a friend, would I apologise?

My other rule is to wait. When tempers have flared and words have been bandied around, I always think a little time and space to cool down is desirable. Flying in the face of common advice, I do like to go to bed on an argument - a new day can offer a calmer environment to put things to rights. Ask your child to give you their version of events, and ask how they might avoid such an unpleasant state of affairs in the future. The more the whole family can get into the habit of this kind of honest discourse, then hopefully the reasons for having it will diminish.

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