The Most Important Parenting Work Of All

The ride to school didn’t go as planned. The firm conversation you intended to have about their grades ended up being a bit ‘firmer’ than you wanted. The trip to the museum was a disaster. The disagreement you had with your spouse spiraled into a full-blown fight.

Ok, that’s not great. But it doesn’t have to be the end of it.

Dr. Becky talks a lot about the idea of “repair” in her fantastic book Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be (yes, we really do love this book!). It’s what we do after something goes sideways, after a shouting match, after a punishment, after we make a mistake, after we weren’t as calm or understanding as we’d like to be, after we did something our folks used to do that we swore we wouldn’t.

“I often tell parents,” she writes, “that the worthiest goal might be to get really good at repair, which acknowledges the reality that parents will continue to act in ways that don’t always feel great, and there will continue to be hard, misaligned moments. But if we can develop the skill of going back, nondefensively, to our kids and showing them that we care about the discomfort they experienced in those ‘rupture’ moments,’ then we’re tackling the most important parenting work of all.”

What’s repair? Repair is talking about what happened. Repair is making a deposit of “connection capital,” like we talked about recently. Repair is an apology. Repair is working it out, coming up with a solution that you both feel better about. Repair is showing your kids that you’re a human being—not an infallible authority—repair is showing them how much you care, explaining how you can both grow and learn from what happened.

We’re going to mess up as parents. Things are not always going to go the way we want them to go. That’s not ideal. But if we can focus on doing great repair after, that’s at least a start.

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