Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting off the Low Road

The Low Road ... the muck, the mire, the warm and sticky Low Road. We've all been there - whether we admit it or not - getting ourselves stuck in a situation with our children where we've said something or done something out of anger or frustration that we regret.

How do we repair our relationship with our child?

Oh, wait. You're surprised? Did you believe the myth that parents who follow attachment parenting are always patient and cheerful? That they happily follow their children from task to task, with a warm and positive attitude, always accommodating and unflappable? Yeah, right.

Maybe the books make it seem so. Maybe other AP parents make it seem so. I've heard lots of parents be turned off of attachment parenting because they think they're not "AP enough." What a shame!

Let's face it. We all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. AP parents are not so different from mainstream parents ... we lose our temper, we get snappy, we clench our fists and sometimes - ugh - even yell. For some, any or all of these things happen rarely. For others of us - and well, uh, let's just say that I definitely count myself among these - they happen just a tad bit more than we'd like. Like every day. Like every hour. Or wait, maybe that's just in my head.

I'm not saying that walking the Low Road is okay or that it's appropriate. It's just, well, normal ... at least at times.

And here's a news flash to all the new AP parents out there: every one of those "together," laid-back, calm, and nurturing AP moms that you meet, even those who are legendary among AP circles for their wisdom and BTDT advice ... they've all walked the Low Road. Some have worn ruts in it up to their knees.

But ... and here's the key ... they've survived with their relationship with their children in tact.


There are some simple rules that I follow to get me get off the Low Road and back onto high ground.

First, step away and remove yourself from the trigger. When I've done or said something I regret (like when I've flown off the handle after the 167th time in the last week that I've found the bread sitting out and getting stale), the first thing I do is walk away. I know myself well enough to know that sometimes that feeling of anger - that heat of the moment - feels good (yes, I said it, and most moms won't admit to it). I finally admitted this after years of talking with my oldest about his rages; he told me that it felt powerful to him to be in a rage state, and that confession clicked with me. Not the proudest thing to admit, but once I realized that, it made it easier to remove myself from a place of anger.

Second, when somewhat calmed, apologize. You'll be simply amazed at the power of the words, "I'm sorry." If you think that anger makes you feel powerful, think again. There are few things more powerful than opening yourself up to someone you love, showing your vulnerability, admitting your mistakes, and knowing that they'll forgive you and love you for who you are, not who you want to be. What's more, that apology sets an example, "allowing" your children to be imperfect and lovable in all their imperfections - and allowing them to apologize in the future, even when it's hard.

Third, explain. This goes hand in hand with apologizing. Your kids are probably relieved to see that you've calmed down and apologized, but they still may be wondering what was going on. What was going through your mind? A heartfelt explanation will help them make sense of the confrontation. "I'm so sorry that I blew my stack. I just get angry when yet another loaf of bread ends up stale because it got left out on the table. I shouldn't have yelled, and I apologize."

Fourth, listen. This is crucial. This is your big chance to hear what your kids really think, to see inside their hearts, and to learn their feelings. If you hear, "Why should I put away the bread, when you leave your clothes all over the floor?" then you know that there's a deeper issue than just forgetfulness. If you hear, "I'm sorry I left the bread out. I just forgot again." Then you know your child is trusting you with his honesty.

Listening is my most useful parenting strategy. I can't tell you how many times I've learned things I never would have imagined just by shutting up. On many occasions, what I thought was the real issue wasn't, and if I'd continued my "solution" to the problem, I never would have gotten to the heart of the issue. In my mind, I have to just zip my lips closed and swallow all those helpful retorts. It works wonders. I talked about this a bit in yesterday's post.

When you find yourself on one of those (hopefully few) journeys slogging down the Low Road, know that you can repair your relationship with your child. Admit you're human and thus imperfect, talk with your children, and move on. The only thing you don't want to do is ignore it. Your children will remember your effort at repair, or they'll remember your lack of effort. Which do you want remembered?

This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International. Learn more about how you can stay “Attached at the Heart Through the Years” by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy What I've Learned As a Parent ...

Thanks to Alyssa for the idea for this post!

Photo by aussiegall from here


  1. Great post. Definitely food for thought.

  2. Aah, thank you! Loved it. I am such a work in progress, as a parent. And, as a humn being. And these are excellent tools for all relationships.

  3. NIce, Camille. I've been shocked at how HARD it is to apologize to my kids! So much easier in my mind than in my mouth. It takes more humility than I have sometimes ... but you're absolutely right, it's a powerful example AND relationship mender.