Parenting Do-Overs: Giving Ourselves a Second Chance to Connect

August 29th, 2013 by Dionna | 1 Comment
Posted in Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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Parenting Do-Overs: Giving Ourselves a Second Chance to Connect

In describing the AP goal of “responding with sensitivity,” Attachment Parenting International emphasizes the role parents can play in meeting children’s needs while honoring children’s big emotions.

The lovely thing about it is, though, we can do the same thing for ourselves.

In learning how to consistently respond to my children with respect and sensitivity, I’ve learned as much about how to work through my own emotions and needs as I have about parenting. And that can be true for anyone. “Parenting is a path of maturation and growth if we dare to learn more and teach less.”1

One of the areas in my life where I am tough on and, therefore, less gentle with myself, is in my perception of myself as a parent. When I’m not “perfect,” I tend to perceive myself as a failure. Usually, this lack of perfection comes in when I react – rather than sensitively respond – to my children.

But over the last 5.5 years, I’ve come to a realization: I don’t expect perfection from my children, why should I expect perfection from myself? I shouldn’t. And I shouldn’t want to be a model of perfection for my kids – it’s not a standard they could live up to!

Call a Do-Over!

One of the tools in my parenting toolbox is called the “do-over.” Right now, I’m usually the one who uses it (though I’m hopeful they’ll both pick it up in time). Let me give you an example of something that happened recently:

Kieran’s t-ball class was ending, and all of the kids had transitioned to playing in the infield dirt. One little boy started shoveling dirt and rocks in between his legs and throwing it behind him, where it flew right into Kieran’s face. Kieran got up, angry and hurt, and I helped him wipe the dirt off. The next thing I knew, he was kicking dirt and rocks onto one of the toddlers. In anger, I grabbed his arm and said harshly, “you do not kick dirt at babies! If you are angry and want to kick dirt, go do it somewhere it cannot hurt other kids. That was not kind!” Kieran was scared and hurt by my reaction, even while he was still working through his anger and hurt from getting dirt thrown in his own face.

On our way home, I apologized to Kieran for reacting in anger and explained that it scared me to see him kicking dirt at the toddler. I did not want him to hurt her.

At home, I kept turning the chain of events over in my head. Kieran had been hurt and angry. I don’t know if he was really trying to hurt the toddler, or if the toddler just happened to be right where Kieran kicked the dirt in frustration. Nonetheless, I reacted out of fear and embarrassment, and in the process, I hurt my relationship with Kieran.

I did not feel like our chat in the car was enough, so I asked Kieran for a do-over. I said, “Kieran, I really don’t like the way I treated you after t-ball. I need practice responding gently when I am scared. Can we have a do-over so that I can try respond to you more respectfully?” He agreed and pretended to kick the floor.

I walked over, wrapped my arms around him and pulled him onto my lap – gently getting him away from a situation where someone could get hurt. I said, “I see you are kicking dirt at my friend, are you feeling upset that you got dirt in your face?” He nodded and started crying and said, “I wasn’t trying to kick dirt on that girl, I was mad!” I said, “I would be mad too if I had dirt on me. It’s ok to be mad! Do you want to come over here away from everyone and kick dirt?” He nodded, but instead of kicking, he relaxed into me.

Our tension was gone. We’d tried again, and we both felt better.

Perhaps next time, I will remember this exchange. I’ll respond with sensitivity to myself, first. I’ll give myself a minute to breathe, to run through the negative thoughts going through my head, to acknowledge them and set them gently aside so that I am responding to my child instead of to what’s going on inside me. Then I’ll let that initial rush of adrenaline fade into something healthier – a desire to connect. And once I’ve been gentle with myself, I can respond more sensitively to my child.

Be Gentle with Yourself, So You Can Be More Gentle with Your Child

If you are stuck in a rut of negativity, if you are beating yourself up for perceived faults or real imperfections, think about how you would want to respond to your child. Regularly self-shaming or self-criticizing means “you’ve been taught to believe that negative feedback is an effective way to motivate change.”2

And for many parents who strive for gentle discipline, that is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to do with our children. We believe that “negative feedback creates avoidance behavior, not inspired behavior.” We use positive parenting methods to connect with our children, knowing that connection and communication lead to cooperation.

We can do the same things with ourselves. Show yourself some compassion. When you feel yourself reacting out of anger or fear instead of responding in love, take a minute to examine your own needs and feelings. Give yourself the same room to grow that you give your children.

How do you practice responding with sensitivity to yourself?

What about with your partner?


Originally published in the July 2013 Natural Parents Network — Code Name: Mama — Hobo Mama Joint Newsletter. Sign up at this link for exclusive giveaways and coupon codes, original content, and more!

Photo Credit: katerha

  1. Aldort, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves at xvii.
  2. Be Gentle with Yourself at

One Response to:
"Parenting Do-Overs: Giving Ourselves a Second Chance to Connect"

  1. Amy Phoenix   forcefreeparent

    Dionna, I love the do-over!!! Absolutely essential for so much in healing/repairing the rough patches and for modeling accountability and responsibility. We do them over here and find resolution every time. :D

    Also, have you read Dr. Laura’s post on perfection. I love it. :)

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