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Owning Up To Mistakes: How to Handle a Parenting Mistake

So you’re not perfect. There are plenty of mistakes parents make. Right? Of course! Parenting expert Amy Speidel has advice for talking about our own mistakes with teenagers.


There are a couple reasons why at the end of the day, we may feel like we haven’t quite nailed it. In fact, not only haven’t quite nailed it, we have completely screwed up our kids. Like to the core. So when we go to bed and we feel as if they would be better raised by wolves, here’s what we want to do instead. We want to recognize that we get to make mistakes and recover as well. The more we make those mistakes and recover with grace, the more our kids really understand how to do that as well.

In this society right now, we don’t recover well from mistakes. So when you make them, let your kids now that you’re going to try to do that differently. However making mistakes is just part of being human. So the first piece that we’re going to do is acknowledge it. “That didn’t go so well. I’d like to do that differently.” In fact I recommend that more than saying “I’m sorry,” because I’m sorry runs a little thin after a while. “That didn’t go so well. It didn’t work for me. I’m guessing it didn’t work for you. I’d like to try that again.” When we take personal responsibility, instead of saying “You’re the one driving me crazy. You’re the one that makes me look like I’m not a good mom,” then they learn to also take personal responsibility for their own mistakes.

The second piece to this is we’ve got to have a way to open back the part of our brain that is brilliant. So in Conscious Discipline, we teach smile, take a deep breath, and relax. There’s a reason for that. When you get tight and your heart rate goes up—anybody out there—you know your heart rate goes up sometimes just when they walk in the door because all of the stuff they’ve done that irritates you comes flying into your body, right? So your heart rate goes up. We want to take the heart rate down.

So you just push your cheeks up and smile. With teenagers, I say smile away. A little confusion around what’s happening with you is a good thing, like “Oh my gosh, she’s going crazy.” So you smile, then you take a deep breath. When you do that, you have taken down your heart rate and you repositioned your brain to actually keep your executive state open.

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The reason that we don’t act out of our brilliance is because we’re acting out of our emotional state or our survival state. So what we want to do instead is bring ourselves back up here and you do that by turning off the alarm system, when you push your cheeks up, it turns off the bells in your head, because it takes your heart rate down. Your body thinks you’re actually delighted even though you’re not. Then you take a deep breath and you bring in oxygen, that’s brain food, and then you relax your body, which turns off any residual flight, fight, or defend. So when I do those steps, now I’m ready to pick up the tools that I had.

How many times have you known that it could have gone differently, if you just would have done this instead. You didn’t not do it because you didn’t want to. You didn’t do it because you were not in the part of your brain that knows how to do it. So smile, take a deep breath, relax go, and back to your brilliance.

Amy Speidel is a Certified Parent Coach at Senders Parenting Center and an instructor in the Conscious Discipline Philosophy for parents and teachers.

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