Connect, then correct. It’s a phrase I’ve heard for a long time now. At its most simple, it’s quite easy. Connect with your child before providing any correction about what they’ve done.
My toddler hits me when I pick him up after he’s bolted from me in the parking lot. I connect: “You’re mad!” Then I correct: “Hitting hurts. Show me gentle hands, please.” And he gently rubs the side of my face where he hits me.
But for older kids or kids with lots of trauma or more challenging behaviors, we sometimes find ourselves in more complex situations. Our heart rate increases at the first hint of their angry words, and our brain rushes into it all. We try to connect: “You’re mad! You’re so mad.” And then we quickly try to correct: “Try that again with nice words.” And the result? “NO. I HATE YOU!”
The problem? We rushed the correcting. Our kids can’t respond to correction if they’re dysregulated. Our kid was still dysregulated.
Connecting might actually need to take much longer than we’re giving it. Connecting might actually need to take 20 minutes, and then we might just need to just let it sit for a bit. Give our kids space to see how they are. Are they still dysregulated? Or have they calmed?
Once we’re certain they’re regulated, we can successfully correct. Only then.