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Dear Ali,

I watched your Facebook live show on spanking and had a question. Sometimes I react to my kids’ behaviors and realize later, I either over-reacted, or acted too quickly, or not in a way that feels good. I don’t want to confuse them (they are 8 and 4) by retracting what I did or said, but now I’m thinking I’ve f%@#ed them up and can’t fix it. Can I fix it?


Whoops Mom




Dear Whoops,

We all make mistakes. But we don’t all feel remorse, so this is wonderful! As soon as you realize you’ve done something you regret, fix it. If you yelled at your child, and later recalled the look of shock and fear on their little face, and feel bad about it – go right to that child, sit on the floor, look them in the eye and tell them you made a mistake. If you shushed them when they were crying and later realized they were crying out of exhaustion, tell them.  If you spanked them, and then you learned from watching the spanking video on Facebook that spanking only makes them feel pain, fear, and confusion, and now you know better – take a deep breath and tell them. Hug them. Apologize.

Grown-ups make mistakes. Tell her how you feel about how you reacted and behaved. Tell her you’re sorry. Tell her that now you know better and will try to do better. At worst, you are modeling awareness and remorse. At best, you are giving your child an opportunity to forgive and showing them how to turn a mistake into a learning experience. Use that opportunity to get closer. She may not forgive you right away. She may be upset about how you treated her. That’s okay. Let her be. You need to sit with that, be patient, and own it. But it won’t last forever. Let her tell YOU how SHE feels about how you reacted to her behavior. Listen to her silently while she speaks. Apologize.

You probably parent better than you were parented. You’re doing great! Kids are resilient and forgiving. But be real with them. They will make mistakes, too – and now they will know what to do when they make mistakes. Now that you have this awareness, try to make self-regulation a priority. When your child pushes your buttons, take a breath. Ask yourself what is the emotion behind the behavior. What is your child trying to communicate? There were many times when one of my kids was acting like a monster – mean, cranky, volatile, and whiny. I was impatient and frustrated with them – and then I felt terrible when the next morning I discovered they had a fever! It happens! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Forgive yourself, keep learning how to parent positively with love and kindness, be patient with both of you – and you will do better next time.



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