I remember too well saying something like, "I know I said I'd take you _____________, but I'm really busy and have to get _____________ done before dinner tonight." And then there are the painful incidents in which I snapped or yelled when caught off guard or noticed something written on with crayon or broken, and automatically thinking about how much that item cost or what I'm going to have to spend to fix, clean or replace an item.
Austrian neurologist and the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, taught us that we have automatic systems in place that defend our ego from being hurt by guilt and fear. When we parents get angry toward our children, it's a way of protecting our ego from feeling guilty that we mismanaged our schedule and didn't show up on time, or that we forgot something that was important to our children. It's also occurs when we think about having to pay out money that was not in the budget and we're already over extended financially.
When we find ourselves in this situation, we must calm down and breath. A few deep breaths will help us manage our emotions and see the situation for what it really is; not quite as serious as we had ourselves believing. If we're able to, it works remarkably well to see the situation from our child or teen's perspective. I remember my teenage son coming how with a dent in the family car and how driven I felt to keep asking why and how in an angry tone.
So when you do something like the things I listed in the first paragraph that could have been avoided, be ready to provide a MAKEUP to them. Providing a makeup means offering something to your child that you will do as a way of making up for the mistake you made. You would say, "Wow sweetheart, I am so sorry that I forgot about taking you to the mall as I had promised. I owe you a makeup."
The next step is to offer something as that makeup and here is an important ground rule: it should not include buying them an object. The ideal makeups should be about spending time together without technology or money. They should be walks in the park, dates, playing table games, or crafting. Make believe tea parties would be great for little children and "hanging out" together to play catch in the backyard would be appropriate for a teenager.
It is extremely important that the adult who made the mistake must be the one to determine the makeup, not the victim. And not only does this work well with kids, it also applies to handling mistakes with significant others as well!
Bill Corbett has a degree in clinical psychology and has been chosen to deliver the keynote address at a large education conference in Holland this Fall. He is happily married with three grown children, three grandchildren, and three step children, and resides in Enfield, CT. You can visit his Web site www.CooperativeKids.com for further information and parenting advice.