This morning my boys (4&8) were sitting on the couch, watching TV but also picking at each other. The little one kept saying “come at me bro!” To which Mr.8 would jab him with the wooden vacuum. Mr.4 said “no, when I say come at me bro, I want you to tickle me.” I said “D, come at me bro means ‘fight me.”
You can see this escalating as I did. Since Mr.8 was brandishing a toy that could be used as a weapon, I say “C, put down the vacuum, someone is going to get hurt.”
He seemingly ignores me. I say again “C, put down the vacuum, that’s not a toy for wrestling.”
Apparently I got distracted and the next thing we know, Mr.4 is crying. His fingers got caught in the wooden vacuum. My husband scoops up Mr.4 and goes to tend to his injury.
I start berating Mr.8 “I told you to put it down! I knew someone was going to get hurt!”
Mr.8: “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt him. If I let go it would have hit him.”
Me: It’s a vacuum. Were you vacuuming with it? Then you weren’t using it correctly.
(Who am I kidding? That’s never used as a vacuum lol So not my usual thought process, 🤦♀️)
Then I see it, I knew it was coming, the pain he was about to feel. See every-time I do this…. He crumbles into a ball of self-loathing. It’s excruciating to see and I’ve worked hard not to cause that but it’s tricky because any simple correction can spark this reaction.
So I go over and sit with him and say
“Oh, I can see those feelings of remorse are starting to fill you. I know, those feelings are so uncomfortable aren’t they? But you know what those horrible awful feelings tell us? They tell us that you have a kind and loving heart and soul. People who have a loving heart feel bad when they hurt others by accident. And I am sorry if they way I spoke to you made those feelings worse.”
He softened. He started to play with the flowers on my watch. He co-regulated and self-regulated. He didn’t fall into a shame spiral. He processed it.
Rupture and repair. Co-regulation and self-regulation is still possible after we make a mistake too. Try telling yourself the same thing. “You feel remorse because you are a “good” and loving parent, not because you are a “bad” parent.”
Also, if my husband wasn’t there, I likely would have tended to Mr.4 first or tended to both in the same place.
If you want to learn more about rupture, repair, co-regulation and self-regulation, get my latest E-book Finding Your Calm: A Responsive Parents Guide to Self-Regulation and Co-Regulation