In reality, all parents lose their patience from time to time. As long as a child is not frightened when this happens, an angry response is unlikely to cause adverse long-term effects on the development of a child’s social and emotional brain. Most likely, when a parent loses patience, a break in the close relational connection between parent and child occurs. It is then important to repair the broken connection.
If you realize after the fact that you were a bit over the top in your reaction to something, whether because of impatience or stress misdirected toward your child, it is important to acknowledge that your child’s feelings were hurt by your response. By doing so, you are mending the breach in the relationship. You can simply sit down and cuddle your child and then offer an apology. This emotional expression will do wonders to repair and reconnect. When you apologize for an overreaction, you are also modeling that relationships can withstand moments of imperfection and conflict and be better again. The alternative lash-out-and-leave response will leave children frightened, confused, and more certain to interact with others in the same ineffective way. When you make an effort to reconnect after losing patience, your child will feel that her very being and goodness is important, influential, and worthy of your love.
Remember that children are often ready to reconnect and forgive more quickly than you are. A child may not use direct words but rather may offer to help you with a chore or make you a “gift” of some sort. It will be helpful if you, the parent, can respond attentively by moving your body down to his or her level and offering thanks with eye contact and warmth. If you are still feeling too angry to respond warmly, be considerate in your honesty. You might tell your child that you still have angry feelings, adding a promise to talk when the angry feelings calm down. Remember, you are modeling.
Strengthen the love bond between you and your child by mending broken connections.