“I Overreacted and Gave My Child Too Harsh a Consequence…. Now What..?”

Dad: Kerry, I’m a single dad and wondering how I can gracefully back out from having overreacted and given my son a harsher consequence than I should have?

He’s 4 and was throwing water out of the bathtub. I got mad and told him he had to go straight to bed with no stories. I cooled down a few minutes later and realized I had overreacted. I told him I was sorry that I’d gotten so irritated and I had reconsidered and that he didn’t have to go to bed yet. But now I’m worried that I’ve lost credibility with him. Was there a better way to handle that?

Kerry: Chris, I think the way you handled it was completely appropriate. It’s ok to teach your kids that sometimes we adults re-think things and change our minds. It’s also ok to model that a normal part of being a grown-up is making mistakes and then fixing them.

If you want to bring a little more playfulness into your parenting, you can try a “re-do.” That’s where you tell your son that you didn’t like the way you handled the bathtub scene and that you would like to re-do it. You playfully back out of the bathroom and pretend you are talking backwards. Then you stick your head back in and ask if he’s ready for you to do that scene over. You can say, “Bathtub Scene, Take Two.” You might even ask him to splash the water again! (That’s optional.) Then you go in and handle the situation the way you wished you had done it in the first place.

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