“What’s most important may not be what you do, but what you do after what you did!”

May 27, 2021

“We are certain to make mistakes, but we can recover. It is how we handle our mistakes
that makes the difference.” This is such a great rule-of-thumb from the Child-Parent Relationship Therapy training that is the curriculum in my In-Home Play Therapy program. In this episode I talk about how if your relationship with your kids is broken somehow, that you need to fix it. When you do, you are modeling for your kids how to handle these situations. And finally, this rule of thumb teaches our kids ownership of their behavior. – The path to calm, confident, and in-control parenting start now!
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Podcast Transcript

Hi, I’m Dr Brenna Hicks, The Kid Counselor. This is the Play Therapy Parenting Podcast where I give you insight, awareness, and enlightenment about your parenting and your relationship with your kids. As you know, sometimes I share rules of thumb from the Child Parent Relationship Therapy program, which is the curriculum that is used in the In Home Play Therapy program. And today as promised, we are going to talk through one of those rules of thumb and it’s hard to say, but it’s extremely important to learn: ‘What’s most important may not be what you do, but what you do after what you did.’ And I think we can all admit that we make mistakes in our parenting. Well, we make mistakes as humans, but we also make mistakes in our parenting. And this rule of thumb is so helpful to allow ourselves forgiveness, allow ourselves to realize that it’s ok even when we make mistakes, it’s the way that we handle it that makes the difference.

So in this episode of the podcast, I would like to share with you when we make mistakes, when we handle things in a way that isn’t necessarily the most effective or the most appropriate, the relationship with our kids gets broken. And we’ll unpack how to fix that relationship. And then the second thing I’d like to share is when we handle our mistakes well, and when we handle our mistakes appropriately, this models for our children what that looks like and they begin to see an example of how to do the same. So we’ll talk through that. And then finally when we demonstrate acknowledgement and ownership over our mistake, it teaches our children exactly why that’s important and they begin to experience, rather than be told, what apologizing and the outcome of an apology looks like. So really powerful stuff. Very excited to share this with you.

The path to calm, confident and in control, parenting starts now. Okay, so when we think through admitting that we have made a mistake – and that can be to anyone in our life, doesn’t have to be our kids. It sometimes can be difficult for us to do that because it requires us to think through what happened and decide that yes, we didn’t handle that in the most effective way. And then sometimes the admission of wrongdoing is difficult and it’s tricky. Unfortunately, that sometimes prevents us from acknowledging when we’ve hurt our kids, when we handle things in a negative way, when we handle things in an emotional way. And what I mean by those descriptions: so something happens and we yell, or we lose control, or we excessively punish, or we threaten, or we are unkind in the things that we say in any given moment, those types of things happen. We hurt our kids and we damage the relationship there. And it’s interesting because I think that we as adults often see that as a one way street, that when our kids yell or lose control or get out of hand or say unkind things and are mean, we expect them to acknowledge and apologize and address what they did, but we often fail to realize that they need exactly the same from us. And so when we make mistakes which there is no need to be angry at ourselves or upset with ourselves, when those things happen, it’s inevitable, we are not perfect. So of course, we’re going to make mistakes. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that we shouldn’t be making mistakes. That’s not at all the intent. This episode is actually to say when we make those mistakes, we often don’t handle them appropriately with our kids. And I think it’s because we expect them to do it, but we don’t realize that they need it from us. And so when that relationship gets damaged, when it is broken because of our actions or our words or whatever happened in that moment, we are often hesitant to acknowledge it. But it’s the thing that will most repair the relationship. It’s been damaged and there needs to be reparation. And so what’s most important may not be what you do – that’s whatever the mistake was. But what you do after what you did, how you handle it. So when we go in afterwards and say, “I shouldn’t have yelled, I didn’t handle that kindly. I lost my temper. And you know, I regret the way that that was handled,” that shows our children that we are making amends, that we are repairing the brokenness in the relationship. And I have often gone in and apologized to my son late in the evening, you know, almost at bedtime. I’ve realized that I didn’t handle something well and I’ve gone in and said, “Bud, I’m sorry that (fill in the blank). I’m sorry that I got angry, I’m sorry that I didn’t speak kindly to you.” Children are extremely gracious and children are extremely forgiving, and that almost reinforces this entire premise that we don’t have to be afraid of apologizing. We don’t have to be afraid of saying, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Our children are extremely loving, and kind, and gracious to us. And so I’ve never had an experience where he got more angry about it or he was mad that I brought it up. He has always said, “It’s okay.” And you know, I’m able to know that that relationship has been repaired. So really powerful thing to keep in mind that we do have to fix that relationship once it gets broken. And this is a really helpful thing to keep in mind to do that.

Second thing I’d like to share is when we think about the way that kids learn, kids learn in different ways. So if you study education at all, if you study the ways that people learn best, you will find all different kinds of options. And certain people gravitate towards certain things. Our children, especially when they’re young, they learn a lot about the world and they learn a lot about how to function within the world from observation. And so we have to keep in mind we’re always being observed. We’re being observed when we’re at our best, were being observed when we’re at our worst, we’re being observed with the things that we say, the way that we say them. The way that we talk about people, the way that we handle a crisis, the way that we handle frustration. Our children are always watching, always observing, always learning about the way that they will handle things and respond to things based on what they see us do. So that could be a heavy burden to carry, knowing that our children are always paying attention and they’re going to emulate the things that we do. However, in terms of making a mistake and handling it in a healthy way afterwards, our kids learn by watching us. And so to me this is one of the most compelling pieces of this rule of thumb is when we make mistakes, our children watch us handle those mistakes. So if we are quick to deny it, to refuse to talk about it, to argue and defend why we handled it a certain way, our children will do the same. But if we’re quick to say, “I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I know better. That wasn’t the way that I want to handle it. I’m going to try better next time.” That is also what they observe and what they learn. And so this is a meaningful example that we are setting for our kids that they understand what it means to watch something happen, realize that that’s not what they want to do and work to do it differently the next time in the future. So keep in mind that as our children are with us – engaged, interacting all of the moments throughout the day, they watch us all day long. But they specifically watch the way that we handle when things don’t go the way we wish they would have and I would hope that we would keep that in the forefront of our minds. “I really screwed up and my child needs to see the appropriate and best way to handle a mistake so that they can do that with their friends, with their teachers, with authority figures, with their coaches, with their siblings, with their parents.” It really is a two way street. So when we begin to handle mistakes appropriately towards them, they begin to handle mistakes appropriately toward us.

And then finally, when we own a mistake, when we just openly admit, “I’m not going to make an excuse, I regret the way that I handled that. I’m going to try harder and really handle that differently in the future,” they see that there is ownership. And there’s one of my clients that I did the private parent coaching with, she actually recommended a book to me and the entire concept of the book is about owning everything. So you own the good, you own the bad. I’m pretty sure he’s a former military, pretty high up in the military guy and he has a strange name and I forget how to say it, but I think it’s Jocko Willink or something. So email me and tell me that I completely butchered that, but I think it’s Jocko Willink. But the entire concept of the book is about owning everything and there’s no excuse making, there’s no defense of anything. There’s no denial of anything. It’s when things are amazing I own it, when they’re terrible I own it, and everything in between. And I think about that a lot as far as the parent-child relationship, because when we own something that we did, our children get the model of that. And you know there’s a lot of steps in owning something. You have to admit what happened, you have to acknowledge that you want to do something differently, you have to apologize, you have to accept the responsibility and the consequence of that. And so a lot of what we talk about in the play therapy model of interacting with kids is teaching kids self responsibility and self control and ownership of the outcome. Many of the play therapy pillars that I discuss with you all is all funneling back to those primary fundamental beliefs that when a child has self responsibility and self control and ownership, they understand decision making in the moment and they are able to make more appropriate decisions. So when we own the mistake that we’ve made, they learn what that looks like. And you know, that takes a lot of acknowledgement and reflection and processing. If you do something in the moment and you never think about it again, you move on and we don’t necessarily understand the impact that that had on that person. You know, it was a little flash in the pan for us and we moved on, who cares, but someone often will live with the hurt or the outcome of that moment for days, weeks, years unbeknownst to us. And so that’s a pretty significant acknowledgement that the ownership piece is showing them what that looks like. And really, when we think about being parents, it’s tough. And you know, we all know that it takes a lot of work, a lot of purpose, a lot of intention, a lot of investment. So be gracious to yourself, be gracious to your kids; know that grace given and grace received is the way that the relationship is the best that it can be. And you know, sometimes we tend to feel guilty, we tend to feel ashamed. We tend to blame ourselves or blame the situation and really this equips us.

This rule of thumb: “What’s most important may not be what you do, but what you do after what you did” it equips us to embrace the idea of reflecting on something, realizing that we didn’t handle it the way we wanted to and addressing it. It’s just acknowledgement and making sure that things are repaired and whole again, so that there’s no fracture in the relationship. Because remember, as I tell you over and over and over again, the relationship is at the first and end of everything related to parenting. So everything always comes back to the relationship. We don’t want to leave a relationship unrepaired, we don’t want to leave a relationship broken. We want to make sure that any fracture, any fissure, any crack, for any reason is addressed and it’s whole before we move on to the next thing.

So, please let me know your experiences with this topic. I would love to have you email me [email protected]. Let me know how this goes. Let me know if this impacted you in some way. If you have questions, if you have comments, I would love to hear from you. This really is a special rule of them for acknowledging the power of making sure that the relationship is whole. And one last final thought. There is no limit of time for how long you can or can’t circle back to an issue. So, let me clarify what I mean by that. I talked to my parents a lot in the In Home Play Therapy program and in the private parent coaching about circling back, that’s one of my phrases that I use a lot. There is no statute of limitations on how long it has been and therefore we can’t address something. So maybe something’s on your heart right now. Maybe you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Gosh, a month ago when I did X, I know that that hurt the relationship and it was never discussed” or “Four days ago, oh my goodness, I yelled and I wish that I wouldn’t have and I never said anything to my kids.” Do not feel that you’ve missed your window and missed your opportunity to fix it. You can always circle back and bring it back up in the same tone and in the same conversation that you would have had if it would have been closely after the incident. For example, you might say, “You know what (child, daughter, son, whoever you’re talking to) I was thinking about way back when when I… I yelled, I felt that I punished you too harshly. I lost control. I got really angry, I threatened you, I (fill in the blank).” So there’s this acknowledgement of what happened. “So I was thinking and it made me think about X happened and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. I know I didn’t say I was sorry at the time, but it came back into my head and I just wanted to tell you that I don’t want to handle things that way and I wish that I wouldn’t have handled it that way. And I’m going to try to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.” And there’s no time limit where you say, “Oh, that happened so long ago. It’s not worth bringing up.” You can always go back and address and fix whatever it was that happened.

So be encouraged by that. I would love to hear your stories and you know, share with me what happens. Please don’t forget go to thekidcounselor.com/newsletter and sign up because I put all kinds of content out for you through that channel as well as the podcast. So thekidcounselor.com/newsletter is where you’ll find more information. In the next episode, I am going to unpack for you another rule of thumb in the Child Parent Relationship Therapy program, “You can’t give away that which you don’t possess.” So we will talk about that next time. You have to have things before you can give them away. And so we will look at that and what that means and how that applies to your parenting in the next episode. Thank you as always for listening. I will talk to you soon. Bye.

Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.

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