The Science of Parenting

How to Repair | S.6 Ep.6

August 19, 2021 Season 6 Episode 6
The Science of Parenting
How to Repair | S.6 Ep.6
Show Notes Transcript

When family stress is high, patience can run low. Reconnecting and repairing with our children after we’ve lost our cool is essential. Hear a four-step process for repairing in this week’s episode.

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Korthals:

And I'm Lori Korthals, parent of three in two different life stages. Two are launched, and one is in high school, and I am a parenting educator. And today we are going to continue our conversation on resilience in families during tough times and specifically talk about repairing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yep, we mentioned that last week when there was that research tidbit that talked about in every time we want to and I was like, okay, but that's not going to happen every time. Yeah, so thinking about parenting in tough times. And we know that everybody's situation looks different, what tough times you face, how you experience them, based on all kinds of factors. And so this season, we're focused on research based information and strategies that we can use to parent through tough times, no matter what they are, that come our way.

Lori Korthals:

Absolutely. And this idea of parenting through tough times really does come down to how do I continue to be that parent that I want to be, even when things are tough, and even when I maybe don't say or do things that I really wanted to. And so I think that today's episode is one of those where we really grab on to there's more than one way to raise great kids, even when we have to go back and repair.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Totally. Oh, absolutely. And we use this word repair, one because it's an R word and that fits. But I wanted to do this. Like, reconnect, resolve, there's other words we could have picked. But when things don't go ideally, when we've misstepped, when we've done something wrong, something we regret, there is a way to repair and reconnect. And as parents, we get to do that. Sometimes it's like, I don't know. But there is a way forward was one of the things you said earlier, like there is a way forward.

Lori Korthals:

And you know, we know everyone's parenting journey won't always be easy. But we do hope that we can continue to fill your toolbox, just so that you're prepared for those tough times.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And forewarning, I get a little geeky. And yes, I got to dig into some research that was kind of not out of our scope. But yeah, I'm so focused on parenting research as we prepare for these episodes. And it was like, well, there's a broader perspective. Yeah, I do look forward to that.

Lori Korthals:

And then we also are kind of tossing our format to the winds a little, a little bit even going in a different order than you know. I know, trying to model flexible thinking. Okay, so we typically start out by defining our topic for the episode. But instead, we actually want to give you some different contexts so that we can just kind of start all on the same page, right? So as we talk about this idea of parenting in tough times, you got to know we recognize there is an emotional toll on us as parents. So for example, research from Prime, Wade, and Browne explain that some of this stress during the pandemic was actually because of this resource depletion, right? Okay, this increased demand on our parenting resources, and then couple that with the reduction of our basic capacity, it could be due to problems in mental health or coping behaviors. And it just really places parents at risk to rely more heavily on some of those more problematic or less effective styles of parenting.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yes. And I think the thing that I love about that quote, in particular, is almost like a little equation to me. During stress, I want to go back to algebra just very quickly, during stress there is a reduction in our abilities to cope because we're stressed, right? Our normal bucket of cool, calm, collected is empty. Our tolerance buckets are a little lower. Yeah, lots of things are dumping that bucket out and so we see a reduction in that. And at the exact same time, the amount of things that are needed of us, the demands on our time and energy are going up. And my ability to cope with that goes down. What people ask of me goes up. It's like, wait, wait, wait, it's this divergence. Yeah. Like, wait, I have less time and energy and patience. And you're asking more.

Lori Korthals:

Mm hmm.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And of course, that affects how we interact with people, interact with our kids, how we parent, what kind of discipline and punishment. You know, discipline or even physical punishment. We can be quicker to jump to harsh words or consider a physical punishment we wouldn't normally consider, because our patience, right, is so much lower. When stress goes up, patience goes down.

Lori Korthals:

We've all been there, right? We've all been there. And I think that just keeps, like this whole time that we've been talking in this episode, I just keep thinking, repairing is so hard but so important. Repairing is so hard but so important, because I don't think there's anyone around that can say, I've never lost my parenting cool. I've never been a dysregulated parent. I don't think that that's, you know, there are times where we just legitimately cannot cope with things anymore, because the stress of everything has taken its toll.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And you know, as we think about all of this, and yeah, that easier to lose our cool, quicker to be harsh with our words or harsh with our discipline. And that actually reminds me of a research tidbit we had in previous seasons, where we look at this idea of like, what do parents say about their own ability to regulate and how it affects their discipline?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, I know, yes, that is from one of our favorite places, Zero to Three and they did a national parent survey. Not, you know, looking at tough times. In general, they did a national parent survey. And it revealed that 40% of parents wish that they could do a better job of not yelling, or raising their voice so quickly. And of parents who say that they use physical discipline with their child frequently, 77% actually shared that they don't think it's one of the most effective methods of discipline. So of the parents who say they use physical discipline frequently, 77%, like more than half, more than two thirds practically, said, I actually don't think it's very effective. Oh, yeah, kind of reminds us also of that upstairs downstairs brain.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And this idea of like, yeah, when stress goes up, and patience goes down, of course, but like, in general, the methods of discipline and of teaching my child what behavior I want. Yeah, I maybe don't think that those harsher ones, even if I'm using them, I don't think they're my most effective ones.

Lori Korthals:

Exactly. And when we look at that upstairs, downstairs brain, Reed talked about that in season one, and the upstairs brain is that logical, we've thought through it, we've looked at what's most effective, versus that downstairs brain where it's very emotional. And that we can become very dysregulated. And there's not a lot of cognitive thinking that happens downstairs. Yes, there is no logic there, we get dysregulated down there. And especially in stressful times, we lose our logic. Yeah, we forget about the upstairs brain. And we literally lean harder into that downstairs brain. We lean harder into those overwhelming emotions that we have. And so today, in addition to our usual message of caution against using harsh discipline, we actually want to give you some steps towards reconnecting and repairing after things go differently than you hoped. Or in those times when you've maybe leaned into your downstairs brain.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I also think we've talked about this mostly in the context of when we lose our cool, but I also think we can use this strategy once we like, learn better, right? Yeah, you know, so I've heard you say before, like, I didn't learn about this until she was one. Oh my gosh, the things I could have done differently. But as we learn on our parenting journey, and we look back at like, okay, now I realized that maybe wasn't the most effective or that could have been hurtful. Or we can also repair there, too.

Lori Korthals:

We can. Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And even at the time, if that was our cool, calm, collected decision, but it was a less informed decision than the decision we can make now. Absolutely, yeah. So we can use it in both ways. So just thinking about a little, you know, this is a very, there is research, obviously, but it's really about, like reality. This is what happens. It's all reality. It's all real. Someone asked us to get a little vulnerable. And if we each kind of share an example of a recent time, we needed to kind of practice this repair, and reconnect. Have you got one?

Lori Korthals:

I've got one. My mother actually does listen to our podcast. And so I know that if I don't use this example, like if we had a call in show she'd be calling in saying, um, I have an example. I think you forgot one, Lori? But so yes, there was a time where I legitimately absolutely 100% Yes. That your feelings were valid. And the way you express said things I didn't. Like how I said them, I absolutely meant them when I said them at the time, right. But looking back, that was definitely not the most effective strategy. I know that my daughter still recalls every moment of it. I used words I don't typically use. It's not one of my most proud moments, and especially when, you know, the end result was, you know, that my own child who happened to be an emerging adult at the time went to hang out of her grandmother's for a couple days, because that's how much, you know, it was out of out of character for me. And I think that when we look back at those times, the interesting thing is like, I can feel myself sweating and getting hot. And I don't know if my face is flushed or not. But like we know, in that moment, that that is not how we want to be reacting or responding or behaving. And we're in our downstairs brain. We end up rolling with it, and then rolling in it and keep on rolling through it, right? And down the hill, and down the hill, everything goes and I didn't want to go back to those feelings. Like don't you just when that happens, the urge to maybe disassociate and get as far away from that behavior that you had. That's what you want to do, stay far away from what I did there because I'm really not super proud of myself there. Yeah, however, what research tells us is that if we become brave and vulnerable, and we go back and begin to repair, like, it's super important. And let me just say this, I was valid in my disappointment at the ti e. It was absolutely val d for me to be so hugely disappo nted in that situation. So ery disappointed in my child's ehavior, you know, etc. So, I don't want to say that, you k ow, apologizing means that yo didn't have the right to be dis ppointed in whatever behavi r happened, whatever rul is broken, whatever. Yes, you a solutely have that right to b disappointed. However, did I ha e an effective way of expres ing my disappointment at that particular moment in time? he answer is no. yourself was, you know, not in line with your expectations. Yeah, less than stellar.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Less than less than awesome. Yes.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. In fact, some might say downright disrespectful.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. which we know is important to you, that respect is, yes. I say in those moments like we do we get ahead of ourselves. Like I think of one recently that was like, this is a big one. For me, like I'm sure I'll look back on this later and be like, that was a doozy. Actually, not even with my child, with other adults in my family, you know, my mom and some of my siblings and things that was just honestly a miscommunication in a lot of ways but I felt very hurt and angry. And even though I'm very intense, I work very hard to be cool, calm, and collected. So I feel like it's not very often that I really like go off on people because I do, I work really hard at it. And so I will say this was like of epic proportion. The most I have like gone off on somebody in yearls. Like oh boy. And so after that, I actually a couple hours later, like not even a long time after, a couple hours later on. I got a little more context of the situation, heard another side of the story, yada, yada. And then after I was a lot calmer going back and reading the messages that I had sent in my like, full rage. I was like, Who is that person? Yeah, like, those are not words that I use. Those are not things that I say. Those are not ways that I talk to people. Um, and so acknowledging like, holy cow, like, oh, yikes. And if I feel this yucky about it, how do the people that I treated this way feel about it? Right. And so in this case, actually, we'll talk about apologetic acts in just a second. But in this case, I did. I wrote an apology, I wrote a card and I just like, I needed to send some flowers because I was like, oh, I kinda crossed the line. I'm sorry I did that. It was like, I have really hurt our relationship with the things that I said in anger. And like, I need to make a bigger, you know, step forward. Um, so that was one with the adults in my life. But I even think sometimes I use this repair technique, which is really about apologizing or apologetic acts. I even use it with simple stuff. So I said in an earlier episode, oh, we really try to make bedtime a time of connection. Okay, well, yeah, sometimes I get very distracted by my phone. Right? Like, or the family group messages lighten up, or whatever. It is beckoning me on my phone. And sometimes my daughter will be trying to talk to me. And then I'm like, Okay, wait, you know what, I got really distracted by my phone and I wasn't listening to you. I need to put this away. I'm sorry, what were you saying? And it's just like a tiny little redirect. But it's that opportunity to reconnect, right? I don't want to be distracted, I want to be in tune with you. So we can use it in all kinds of different contexts.

Lori Korthals:

We can, we can and that's actually like a strategy. Right? So yeah, if we say what are our reality when it comes to strategies, we've just been sharing strategies and reality and that's kind of what happens when you're talking about apologizing and repairing, it's all about strategies, because we all got to share all the strategies we have.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes, and I do think a big part of his idea of repairing is this idea of an apology or apologetic acts. And so a little bit of this like geeky research that I got to dig into on this idea. As Andrew Cohen, the author of this article 2017 article, called it Apologies as Moral Repair. And I just was like, yeah, that's what we're talking about. Moral Repair. But as he described and defined apologies, he says that apologies are expressive acts in which an offender acknowledges that they have mistreated someone. That by admitting some wrong an apology can affirm significant shared values. And that apologies can then undo some of the effects of the mistreatment. So as someone who is doing research on the idea of apologies as moral repair, this author was saying, you're acknowledging you mistreated. When you do admit to some wrong, you can affirm your values that you share, and that you can undo some of the effects of that mistreatment.

Lori Korthals:

Thank goodness.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and I think of another R word, right. I keep saying repair and reconnect, but also this idea of resolve. You know, as I think of times that I've been hurt, and you know, whether in your family or not, that you've been hurt by people, and that it just hangs out, right, it just like sits there, like an open wound, kind of, and that it just sits there and that it's unresolved and that hurt can continue. And I think of even in small ways, when we misstep, or you know, are blatantly hurtful to our kids, that we can help resolve by saying, you know what, I know better now or, you know what, now that I'm out of that situation, I realized my behavior was inappropriate, and taking that time to practice that apology, because you have that list. Acknowledging that I spoke to you in a way that was not acceptable, right, that was not respectful. I'm going to acknowledge that I mistreated you. Admitting that it was wrong, right. And that it can affirm our shared values, like our shared value of our relationship. Yes. We both value this relationship and the way I behaved did not convey that. I do I just think that's so powerful, that idea of apologies as an opportunity to repair but also resolve hurt.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, absolutely. And it's super important to recognize that, you know, this is for some of those everyday parenting situations. Those times when, you know, we are under stress and things are tough. But this is not necessarily the exact responses that we would have for repeated trauma or for you know, incidences of abuse and neglect. And so that's very different. When we can come back to, you know, resolving and apologizing to our child for those momentary lapses of Gosh, I was down in my downstairs brain, and I typically am not here. And we need to have a conversation about it. Because I don't like how it made me feel. And I know that you didn't feel well about it. Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think also of, you know, as we talk through this, knowing that some of us on our team, and some of our listeners may feel like they have unresolved hurt, right? And so as we think about this idea of repairing, I've heard this word coming up more often, this idea of reparenting. Yeah, so like, deciding the way, whether you loved how you were raised or if there's a lot of unresolved hurt, either way that we have the opportunity to reparent and to decide, this is what I want. I want to apologize to my kids, because I want to resolve when things go poorly. I want them to know they can come to me with feedback about something that was hurtful, etc. And so yeah, this idea, we have the opportunity to resolve these kind of small things that could build up over time. We do, we do.

Lori Korthals:

Okay, so Cohen also talked about the purpose of apologies, and I sort of super geeked out about that. So tell us about that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay, so in season one, when we talked about this idea of repairing, we talked about the four As of communication recovery from Aguilar. And so that was really kind of a step by step checklist. And so, Cohen argues that we should look at apologies or apologetic acts, because sometimes it's not as straightforward as I'm sorry. That we should look at them with the purpose that they serve. So rather than looking at, oh, this is a checklist that makes up a good apology, it's what is the purpose of these apologetic acts? And so I got to tell you what he says. Okay, the function of an apology. They typically fulfill some of the following functions. The transgressor publicly identifies their transgression. That can be a function of an apology. Another function of apology is to express regret. Another is to accept culpability, or basically fault, right, to say, you know what, this is on me. And another is to provide others a basis for forgiveness and trust. So it's not just a checklist, right? These are not like a checklist for apologies, which is hard for me. You know I like a checklist.

Lori Korthals:

And I love that it's not.

Mackenzie Johnson:

The gray area.

Lori Korthals:

The gray area. Yes. Because the first thing you want to do is be like, okay, so step by step. So I first identify the transgression, and then I admit fault, and then I...no, like, maybe it's just one. Yeah, maybe it's two, you know, and this totally when you shared this with me, I thought, oh my goodness, it's all wrapped up into when parents ask us, you know, as parent educators, okay, so should we make our children apologize to each other? When siblings fight or when our child hurts someone? Should we make them, you know, give each other a hug and apologizing. Cohen is where it goes, you know what, it's actually the function, not the checklist. So is the child apologizing? You know, is it a function? Is it making things meaningful to the two involved? Is it allowing for a place of forgiveness and trust? Is it one of the children admitting that they hurt the other. Are they publicly identifying? Right? Mm hmm. What's the function of, well, I make them hug. Okay, so along with that hug, then what? Right? Yeah, so I love this because to me, it's about the meaning. It's not just checking in the mark, say, Oh, well, I said I'm sorry.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I said I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Lori Korthals:

I'm sorry. I said I'm sorry. You know, Mom, I said I was sorry. Yes. Okay, but what is the function of that apology? And what's the meaning behind it? So yeah, I geeked out over this one.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, yeah. Well, and I think it also gives us some creativity in how we can encourage our kids that sometimes an apology saying I'm sorry, is a good way forward. But sometimes it's like the apologetic act, right? So I've been thinking of like, when my coparent and I have disagreed about something with the housework, sometimes the apologetic act is going to just do whatever the thing was. Right? Sometimes it's not about, well, I'm sorry, you know, like, and yeah, I'm sorry can go a long way. But sometimes it is about some of these other purposes of like, accepting fault or giving that person rebuilding the trust or asking for forgiveness. I think of that, too, of, like, because my kids are a toddler and preschooler, when my toddler inevitably knocks over the project, or takes a big marker across the art project, like whatever. How do we encourage the purpose of an apology? Right, rather than just, I'm sorry? And not that I'm sorry is always bad. Sometimes that is the most appropriate apologetic act, but absolutely be a broader purpose of expressing the regret or accepting fault or, yeah, it's bigger than that.

Lori Korthals:

It's hard and it's important.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, and the last thing. Yeah, it's hard. And it's worth it. It's hard. It's important. it's worth it. But the other thing that I think that I haven't said yet, that I have written myself, a little note here is, you know, we talked about the parenting styles. We've talked about them several times. But Dr. Bomberan parenting styles, particularly the authoritative style, and how its a balance of being responsive to kids' needs, and having appropriate expectations. And I think this really comes into the idea of repair. The idea of responding to your child's need for safety, your child's need for some consistency, for you know, for warmth, for whatever, having their fears responded to, whatever that need is, when we know we didn't meet it, right? Like repairing gives us a way to say, yes, I'm being an authoritative parent because I'm going to talk about how I didn't it, and how we can do better next time, or also the idea of appropriate expectations that like, I have expectations for myself, also. Right? Just like I do for my child. And so you know what? My expectation was that I didn't yell. And today I did. So repair is how we get back on track.

Lori Korthals:

Yes. Oh, yeah. So good.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I love a repair and reconnect.

Lori Korthals:

It is. I'd like to know what our writer is thinking. So here we are, in our Stop. Breathe. Talk. space, we typically bring in Mackenzie DeJong, our producer, but all season long, we've been having Barb Dunn Swanson, our writer, come in. And we've been asking her this question. Ready. Barb, what are you thinking?

Barb Dunn Swanson:

I am thinking about how important this whole topic is. And it's important because young children have to have some modeling to see what apologies look like. Yes, yes. They have to see it firsthand. So maybe it's, like you mentioned, coparents apologizing to one another. Maybe they hear mom apologize to them as a child, right, before they can learn to apologize, right? Yeah. The other thing I think about is, you know what, we have to step back. And remember, because we are all human, we are going to fall short of our own expectations. And so we have to give one another grace, that indeed, we are going to make a mistake here and there. And then not expect perfection from ourselves. nor our children, right?

Lori Korthals:

Yes, it's okay for our children to notice that their parents aren't perfect,

Mackenzie Johnson:

Right? Because when they become adults, they'll know it's supposed to be this way. Like there's nothing wrong with me that I'm not perfect, because this is just how it works.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

I'm a human being and I'm gonna make a mistake. But then the bigger picture is that as a value from our family, we spend time talking about what does a good apology look like? And you gave us a list from Cohen about what it can look like. It can look like an act. It can look like an expression. It could be some words that are delivered. But I think equally important is how do we teach one another to accept an apology?

Lori Korthals:

Oh, that's a good one.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We haven't talked about that yet.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

How do we accept an apology? That's just as critical because what happens when we expect someone in the heat of a moment to make an apology? They can't do it. Lori, you spent time talking to us about the upstairs brain and the downstairs brain. And when we are unregulated, dysregulated, when we are so upset in the heat of the moment, our prefrontal cortex where we think and plan and learn what to say, boy, it's not functioning because we're still so upset or angry or emotional. We can't say I'm sorry right then. We have to wait, and you've mentioned this, until we're regulated. But then someone maybe needs to sit with me and help me think, what can I say to make it better? What's gonna make it better? I wonder what that is going to be. And I might need someone to talk me through it. So I'm going back to those Cs again of Ginsburg's. And it's connection, I need someone to connect with me. And then I also need someone to help me learn how to communicate effectively. How do I make that apology? And then how do I accept an apology from you when you want to give me one? Sometimes people will say something. Oh, forget it. I didn't even think about it. Oh, no, it was no big deal.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Sometimes that's not the case. Like sometimes. It was like, no, this mattered a lot. I just don't know what else to say besides, it's okay.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Oh, Mackenzie, you're so right. Maybe what we teach our young people to say, and we teach one another is thank you. Just a simple thank you. Thank you for connecting with me and reaching out. Thank you for this message. Oh, yeah. Those are the things I'm thinking about today since you asked.

Lori Korthals:

Oh, thank you for thinking.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. Thank you for thinking and sharing what you're thinking and sharing. Yes, yes. And I think of those Cs, you know, competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, control are Ginsburg's seven Cs of resilience. If you haven't listened to our first episode of season six, that's where you can hear more about those. But this idea of how we can build resilient kids with the seven Cs, I think of how repairing is so closely tied to this idea of coping, that like when we repair we also help give our kids coping strategies, and all that. And then also character, right? Identifying that this was not in line with who I want to be. And literally, the name of that article was something around moral repair, like, these are my morals. But then I also think the one that comes in that like, kind of slides behind, is this idea of confidence. When we repair with our kids, we give them the confidence to be able to say, you know I do deserve for people to respect me. And also, as they see an apology modeled over and over again, their confidence in, you know what, I know what an apology looks like. I know how to do this. I think confidence is kind of a part of it, too.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

Absolutely. I agree with you.

Lori Korthals:

There's so many good Cs and Rs.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

It was was a great season, just a really great season. We've really been through a tough time this past year. But I think what I've been able to see is that so many of the situations that we've dealt with, we've come out on the other end because we practiced some of the resilience through those Cs and through the relationships that we've had. So that yes, you know what, I think we're going to be stronger because we've gone through these times together.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Absolutely. Thanks, Barb.

Barb Dunn Swanson:

You're welcome.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And Barb is already starting to hint. Next week we are going to be talking our last R of this season is reflect. Yeah. So we're going to both talk about reflection as a skill to build resilience, right, to reflect back on what happened. But we're also going to do some reflecting particularly around the pandemic, right, that that was a tough time, this whole season theme is parenting in tough times. And that was definitely a tough time for many parents. And so we're going to do some reflecting on that. Look at a survey that we got to complete, or we got to ask people to complete, and so we'll be doing some reflecting on the pandemic but also talking about reflecting as a skill for resilience.

Lori Korthals:

Yes, absolutely. So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast. And remember, subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple and Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can also watch the show each week and join us on Facebook. You can also join us on Twitter at scienceofparents to see our content in your feed.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You definitely can and please do come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality, all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is hosted by Lori Korthals and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.