July 17, 2023

Kathryn Part 4 of 5: When Your Teen Deserves An Apology

This is part four of the five part series. Kathryn and Leslie meet for a fourth time to continue to work on her relationship with her 17 year old daughter Bridgette.

In this session, Kathryn describes the event that led to a break in trust between her and Bridgette. Leslie introduces The Three Step Apology skill to help guide Kathryn in repairing her relationship with her daughter. This skill is meant to replace the kind of apologies that have an unintentional element of blame and shame. Kathryn demonstrates the vulnerability and practice that’s needed when trying to learn and implement this new skill. It’s noteworthy that Kathryn was willing to make the apology first. No matter what age they are, children continue to imitate our behavior. Kathryn’s apology will model for Bridgette how to repair relationships throughout her life.

5:10 Reinforcing skills. Giving partial credit when learning skills in order to build mastery and reduce shame

8:32 Description of betrayal event

14:37 Description of Three Step Apology

20:45 Why parents get overwhelmed when dealing with their child’s issues – bringing up the past

23:55 Role Play of practicing the Three Step Apology with Kathryn

Leslie-ism: Find an opportunity to apologize to your child for your part in a conflict. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you get from your child. 

Show Note Links: 

Three Step Apology A description of what the steps are and examples of how to use this skill..

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.


[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Leslie Cohen-Rubury: Hi! This is Leslie Cohen-Rubury and we’re looking for guests for season two of Is My Child A Monster?. We’d love to hear from all kinds of families with kids between ages 4 and 18. There’s no problem too big or too small. If you’d like to volunteer for some free parenting therapy and are comfortable sharing your sessions publicly – with all names changed, of course – please visit ismychildamonster.com and to apply

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

0:35  Kathryn:  I was genuinely sorry, but there was always the but in the back of my mind, “But you have to understand why they’re…” So I’m glad to know that there’s a way to do it differently.

0:53  Leslie:  This is, Is My Child A Monster?, a parenting therapy podcast where you get to listen in as real parents and caregivers share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. I’m a parent and a therapist with 37 years of experience helping families navigate this question. 

In today’s episode, Kathryn and I meet for the fourth time to continue to work on her relationship with Bridget, her 17-year-old daughter. In our last conversation, we uncovered ways in which Kathryn’s feelings of shame had a direct impact on her ability to believe in herself as a parent. This, in turn, has unwanted consequences on their relationship. In the previous episodes, we heard about the incident that damaged the trust between Kathryn and Bridget. We realized together that Kathryn needed to make an apology to Bridget in order to repair the relationship. 

Today, I teach Kathryn how to make that three-step apology. Listen and learn from Kathryn, who is willing to be vulnerable, and shows us the struggles of learning a new skill. As in Kathryn’s first three sessions, this episode has mature themes that may not be suitable for all audiences. And as a reminder, all the names and identifying information have been changed. Finally, this show is for informational purposes only, and not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. So let’s get started.

Leslie:  Hi, Kathryn. It’s good to see you again today.

2:44  Kathryn:  Yeah, good to see you.

2:45  Leslie:  So, it’s been about two weeks since we last spoke. So I’m curious if you want to share any experiences you had that you would like to fill me in on. 

2:59  Kathryn:  Yeah. So I think what I’d like is a little bit more practice on how to talk with my daughter when we’re in discussions, particularly when it’s gotten a little heated.

3:10  Leslie:  Great. So did you try to practice some of it on your own? 

3:15  Kathryn:  On my own with her, do you mean? 

Leslie:  Yes.

Kathryn:  Yes. But I forgot how to do it. I was like, okay, now’s my chance, now’s my chance to do it. Because this is what I need to work on. And then I was flipping through the pages of notes in my mind, but I felt a little bit lost. And so the thing that I was able to keep with was: take care of my own emotions first, so I’m not putting my stuff on her. So I was able to…when it got kind of heated, I kind of moved away, and then would come back in. And I let my husband continue talking with her because he was able to…he’s able to just kind of go into a neutral place. And so I was able to navigate it in that way. But I knew there were other tools that I was forgetting about. And so dealing with my reactivity is the first thing and then, you know, what are the next steps? So I was able to deal more with my reactivity. But the and then part was like a blank slate. [Laughter]

4:14  Leslie:  Okay, good. And what I really liked that you just said is that you did it, but you could do it a little better. I want to pause and make sure you’re giving yourself what I call partial credit. Or you’re reinforcing the new learning that you did—what part did you do different that we can reinforce?

4:37  Kathryn:  I think I was more aware of how we get into these polar places; like, she’s on one side and I’m on the other and it feels like there’s no place in the middle. And so I was able to see that more clearly and back away from it and take some space for myself. And I felt like that was something that we talked about in the previous sessions where I don’t want to put my reactivity onto her. It’s like I need to deal with my own emotions first, and then enter into it with her.

5:11  Leslie:  Excellent, that’s fantastic. It’s important for you to reinforce yourself because I think you talked a little bit about perfectionism. And if perfectionism is living in the household with you, then you might feel, “I’m not getting this. I’m not doing it good enough.” And that destroys the growth, that puts an obstacle to building mastery where…You just practiced and you actually did things differently. I want you to be excited and say, “Okay, that I got that part. I stepped away, I get the reactivity. I see that we are creating this polarity, where we don’t know how to connect, and I’d like to work on that. And I want to say, I got that first part, and I’m really proud of myself.” Do you feel that, and do you understand my point?

6:06  Kathryn:  Yeah. Oh, yeah, I totally understand your point of building the foundation and acknowledging the baby steps. And I think, yeah, there’s perfectionism. And there’s more, there’s the super ego kind of shaming of: “You could have done better.” So it’s like, understanding that that’s also in the mix and being aware. It’s like shining a light on it. “Oh, that’s what’s happening. Okay. Go away. Let’s keep moving forward.”

6:33  Leslie:  Right, because as we’ve spoken in the last few sessions, shame is there for you. And shame is there for Bridget. I often like to think of it as the cycle of shame that’s being passed down in generations. 

6:49  Kathryn:  Yeah, and I want it to stop—that cycle can just end with me. Or end with her, because I’ve been in that cycle and I feel like I’ve worked on it a lot. And it keeps spiraling around. But with her, it’d be great to give her tools to not have to make decisions in life based on that.

7:10  Leslie:  Okay, so whatever we’re talking about here, we want to make sure, we want to see and be on the lookout for where shame is trying to show up. And I just modeled that with you by saying, “Oh, I heard when you describe that. I could be thinking this wasn’t good enough. I didn’t do this. Well, there’s more I can do and I need to do it better.” As opposed to, “I really did part of it. Great. And I want to learn more.” Right? 

7:33  Kathryn:  Yeah, that’s a great reframe. 

7:34  Leslie:  A great reframe. It’s the dialectic and the magic of, Yes, I’m proud of what I’ve done. This is what I’ve done. This is the change. And I can do more.” As opposed to, “Leslie, we need to practice more because I didn’t do it good enough.

7:46  Kathryn:  Yeah, no, I really liked that. Thank you.

7:50  Leslie:  Super. Okay. I put on the agenda, the idea of the repair, from the situation where there was that rave party, and you and your husband were shocked. And it was very upsetting. And then she ended up being in the closet while you and your husband were on the phone. It was a really painful situation for everyone involved, right? I think we can do a repair. But would you briefly go over the parts where people got hurt? Where was the hurt involved in the situation?

8:24  Kathryn:   

Well, from my perspective, I had given…we have a complicated living situation right now. And my husband wasn’t there. And I needed to leave for the weekend. And so we were like, “Okay, we’re going to let you stay for the weekend here. Here are the plans for the weekend. So she made some decisions around sex and drugs and alcohol, that I feel really profoundly betrayed by. Betrayal of trust. Like, “We trusted you, you’re asking for more freedom, here’s an opportunity to show your maturity and that you’re mature enough to have this kind of freedom.”

And she totally blew it. And she told me about it, so I’m grateful that she told me about it in some ways. But it was information overload because a lot of stuff from the past also came up, of stuff that she had been doing, that just sent me into a tailspin of panic and terror of like, “Oh my god, she really is on the edge, in some ways that could be super dangerous for her.” So it was also just a lot of fear for her safety, and her capacity to make good decisions. So I went into that place. And when she told me a lot of what had happened, she thought that I had agreed not to tell my husband. And at first when I heard it, I was like, well, maybe I’ll be able to hold it. But then as she told me more and more, it just became too much. And so the next day I was talking to my husband—or not the next day, it was a couple days later, I can’t remember the whole timeline. But he was with her. And I was away and so we communicate via FaceTime. And he thought that she had left for school; and she hadn’t felt like going to school that day. And she was in a room and was waiting for him to leave the apartment, for her to be able to leave and then she could come back later and say, “Oh, hi, I’m back from school,” whatever, and he never left. And so she stayed in the closet, the entire day, for eight hours. And she overheard—didn’t go to the bathroom, nothing—and overheard the conversation that we were having about what had happened and, and what we felt about it.

And we were really processing our emotions around it. And so she was really hurt by feeling like I had betrayed a trust for her, but also hurt by how we were talking about her, and hearing how we talk about her when she’s not there. And I think that’s terrible that she heard that, and I’ve apologized a lot of times about it. And I think that’s something I’m not sure will ever be fully repaired. Just because it feels like such a betrayal. And like, “Oh, now I know what you really think about me.” And well, I mean, at the time, we were really processing and felt like, “Oh, my God, what do we do? What’s wrong with this kid?” But to hear your parents talk about you, in that way, is really painful. So I feel…that’s awful.

11:34  Leslie:  Okay, so you’ve said you’re sorry. And part of the repair is about saying you’re sorry; as a matter of fact, I’m going to teach you what I call a three-step apology. By the way, there are several injuries, the one we’re going to focus on—because you’re here, not your daughter—we’re going to focus on the injury of her overhearing the conversation and you sharing with your husband. Those two things caused her injury, as opposed to her having that party and doing what she did caused you injury. So we’re not going to go there. She could do a three-step apology herself. But because she’s not here, we’re not going to do that. 

But the point is, when we have the opportunity to model a three-step apology, we want to model it. Whether your child is two years old, or 12 years old, or 15 years old, your children will model what you do. They copy us, they imitate us. So if we really set that model of: here’s what a three-step apology looks like. I waited 22 years, maybe even more, till my daughter…because I did a lot of three-step apologies with my daughter…and eventually, when she was a young adult on her own, she was able and so capable of doing it now. I waited a long time to see that. And I had to have a lot of faith, but it is incredibly beautiful how well she does take responsibility for her part. The three-step apology gets rid of the blaming and the shaming.

So we were just talking about shaming; this three-step apology really is not about shaming yourself or your daughter. It’s about taking responsibility for our actions, and having that strength, that inner strength, to be able to do that. That means we’ve got to be vulnerable. And that’s not easy for a lot of people. You showed me that you are capable. So let’s give it a try with this. What did you do in terms of, “I’m sorry. How did you do that? Was it literally just “I’m sorry that that happened”?

13:44  Kathryn:  So, on the betrayal side of it, I was genuinely sorry. Just, like, that she overheard; I was like, “I can totally understand how you would feel betrayed and I really apologize. That wasn’t something that I would want you to hear. And I’m really terribly sorry about that.

14:05  Leslie:  Okay, sounds like what we all learned was an apology—sounds lovely.

14:11  Kathryn:  But there was always the but in the back of my mind. “But you have to understand why they’re…” so I know that there’s that piece and so I’m glad to know that there’s a way to do it differently.

14:24  Leslie:  Yes, the but is the shaming, the but weakens your it weakens the apology. Absolutely. Okay. So let’s break it down into the three-step apology. What you said will be incorporated in, but let’s look at it. Step 1 is: State what you did. Describe in detail and specifics. What was your behavior? What happened? Step 2 is: What was the effect on the other person? What was the effect of your actions on yourself and the other people or anyone involved? Step 3 is the amends. 

Alright, so let’s go back up to Step 1. This is the step most people skip. And I’m going to use an example from raising my kids when I sort of…I did this and it was brutal. But it was one of those moments where I say it was the worst moment of my parenting, but it also–the other side of the coin—was it was the best moment of parenting. So I was very upset with my day; I had been dealing with the phone company and frustration, I had nothing left in me, I was very, I was just worn out and running on empty, and I was making dinner in the kitchen, and I heard my twin girls fighting upstairs. I told them to come downstairs—don’t ask me why—and I made them fight in front of me. And they’re fighting in front of me. And I said…I lost it, I was going to bang my hand on the counter because I was just losing it. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know why I had them fight in front of me. And instead of hitting the counter, because of my anger, I hit the faucet, the faucet broke—I was angry—faucet broke, water went everywhere. My girls were running upstairs. 

So…calmed myself down, turned off the water. So when they came back down, I stated what I did. I said I was angry. I banged my hand on the faucet, the faucet broke, and sprayed water everywhere. I was screaming, I looked scary, I probably had a lot of tension in my body, my face might have been red. And I looked like I was out of control. Then Step 2 is: how it affected them. “I imagine that it made you really scared.” Now I’m making assumptions, so I give them room to correct it. “I imagine that that was really scary to see me so angry and out of control and to see that I broke the faucet. So I imagine that it was very scary for you. And it might have even made you feel like I don’t love you. It might have made you also feel that it was your fault. And it made me feel like I was out of control and that I hurt you. And that was very upsetting to me.” That’s Step 2. 

Step 3 is the amends; is, “I’m going to fix the sink. It is not your job to fix my anger. This was my anger, not yours. And I apologize. And next time when I’m that angry, I’m going to remember that I want to take a step to take a breath, I want to say I need some space. And I’m going to walk away from the moment or calm myself down next time I get that angry. But that’s my anger. And I will do something different next time that happens.” So my amends is letting them know I’m going to do something different. It could be, “I’m sorry.” But “I’m sorry” is not as powerful as, “Here’s what I’m going to do next time.”

So let’s take your example, translated into these three steps. Can you describe the part where you told your husband and the part where she overheard?

18:15  Kathryn:  Yeah…I actually have a question first, do you mind? 

Leslie:  Go right ahead. 

Kathryn:  Okay. So when it’s a discrete moment in time, I feel like what happens sometimes with our daughter is that it’s like a scab that gets picked, rather than something that gets dealt with in the moment. She’ll keep coming back to it.

18:45  Leslie:  Bringing up the past—is that what you mean? Or this is an accumulation of a lot of experiences?

18:55  Kathryn:  I think it’s both. Just because there’s a lot of undealt with frustration that I have with her about, like, how she does stuff. [Laughter]

19:06  Leslie:  So, I guess, does this get into, “You always do this. You always did…you never…”

19:10  Kathryn:  Yeah, I try not to do the always-and-never languaging with her. But it’s definitely, that might be implied. It’s but it’s more like, “Well, your track record is this.”

19:21  Leslie:  Yeah, that’s why this three step apology specifically says: Be specific about this situation…

Kathryn:   … in the current situation. 

Leslie:   That’s it. Yes. And if she brings up, this is called maintain your focus. If she brings up, “Well, you know, you do this all the time,” I would, right then and there, say, “It may be something that’s happened before. And today I can only address this one thing. Today, I want to address what happened on Thursday…” or last Saturday or whatever. You who are really, you’re doing everything you can, deal with one thing in the moment because we’re not opening up the can of worms and dealing with every problem that’s ever happened. You can acknowledge and say, “You know what, I’m happy to revisit the other situations. Today is not the time I’m going to revisit those other situations.” You can absolutely say you’re going to maintain your focus on today, today, today. “And I get that we need to go back over some of the past ones.” And I would just validate, “It makes sense that you still have an injury from that when this may have happened in the past”

20:32  Kathryn:  Or it’s more like…becomes like a litigation—I have to prove why I’m so upset at this time. And it’s sort of like, “Well, you know, X, Y and Z.” She’ll be like, “Why are you so mad about this one thing?” And it’s because it’s one thing as a representative of so many other things.

20:55  Leslie:  Okay, so you’re doing that as well. 

Kathryn:  We’re both doing it.

Leslie:  You’re both doing it. Say, “We’re playing new rules. New rules—we are not going to bring up the past, not fair for me to do it. And I’m asking you not to do it. So I’ve got to play by the same rules. It’s not fair for me to say, ‘Well, you know, this is not just this incident, it’s all the times when you’re late.’ And you’re this, like, that’s not fair for you. Because it’s too much for anyone to handle. Let’s be specific. Let’s deal with this situation, there was an injury in this specific situation.” That’s like, going to the doctor showing him that you’ve got a cut on your leg. And he says, “Well, we’ll get to that. But shouldn’t we look at all the other cuts on your body? And should we not, only if they’re old cuts that…”  I’m not going back to those. 

21:43  Kathryn:  What if it’s symptomatic, though, like the cut is a symptom of diabetes, and I’m not going to deal with that cut right now. Because you’ve got diabetes. And your cut’s not healing, because you have diabetes. So I can’t sew up this cut. Because I’m not dealing with the underlying…

22:00  Leslie:  Beautiful. I can see why you overwhelm yourself. We’re talking about making a repair. [Laughter] And you’re talking about problem solving, assessing the problem, naming the problem. So I’m with you on all that. But all I’m talking about today is repair. Three steps, and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m feeling a little, “Wait a minute, we got to assess the problem and all the…” No, let’s slow down. You always talk about wanting to be grounded. I’m going to ground you. We’re doing one exercise. 

Kathryn:  Okay. 

Leslie:  One exercise. All those other parts—that’s assessing the problem. brainstorming and fixing the problem and identifying the problem and understanding the problem. That’s all great. But there was an injury. Let’s deal with those three steps. So I’m glad you said that, because that’s what happens to a lot of…

22:50  Kathryn:  Yeah, then I just get lost. I’m like, “Well, I can’t even do those three steps because we haven’t laid the groundwork to do the three steps.” So I just went into total spin in my brain. So yeah, thanks for bringing me back.

23:01  Leslie:  Great. And you said your daughter gives you more information than you can handle. One of the things you want to remember about yourself is, “I want to learn to deal with one thing at a time.” Not the whole…not everything at the same time. I would take that as a nugget to walk away when you are parenting, trying to deal with raising kids that are, oh my goodness—it’s hard. And with life, there’s so many pieces—one thing at a time.

[Music: Live in the Moment by Oleksii Kaplunskyi]

Leslie:  Okay, very quickly, Step 1: Describe the specifics of the injury. What did you say? What did you do? Pretend you’re talking to her? 

24:07  Kathryn:  Okay. “So, Bridget. I am really sorry that you overheard the conversation of Dad and me having a conversation about what happened over the weekend. That has got to be really painful to hear us talk about you, without any filters. Like when we said we were really angry with you. And that I can’t believe all of the decisions that you made that I’m feeling really hurt by and angry about. And that we’re not. ..” Yeah, I’m kind of I’m struggling.

24:54  Leslie:  Okay, you’re doing well. You’re doing well. The first part, let’s go back and break it down because you went from Step 1 to Step 2. So, Step 1 is, I would even start with the fact, “You asked me not to tell Dad.” So we’re really thinking about what are the facts; and before you do a three-step apology, sit down and say: what were the facts of the situation? “You asked me not to tell Dad. You were in the apartment when Dad and I had a conversation. And you overheard Dad and I say things like, we’re worried about you, we don’t trust you, we’re upset with you,” et cetera, et cetera, whatever. So you just sort of really clump it as, “You asked me not to tell Dad. You heard me having a conversation with Dad. You heard me tell Dad everything that you told me in confidence. And you heard us say things about you, such as we don’t trust you.” 

So I didn’t do any apologizing yet. I just stated the facts. Right. That’s what I’d do in Step 1, because how do you think she feels when she hears just the facts?

26:08  Kathryn:  Righteous? [Laughter]

26:11  Leslie:  Yeah. Right. “You did that. How could you do that?” And she might even react and…Say wait, wait, wait—I need just five minutes to do my full three-step apology. Yes, I get that those are the things that happened so far.” And I would even say, here’s Step 2. Step 2 is, “Do I know how it might have affected you? So now I’m going to make some assumptions. And if I get them right, great. If I don’t get them, right.” So Step 2 is, “It probably made you feel like we don’t trust you. You might be really angry that we’re talking behind your back. You might even feel unlovable. I’m wondering if I got that right, or is there anything else— not trusting me, embarrassed that I told Dad, you might be feeling shame? Because you might think you disappointed us. But the way we spoke, I wonder if those are the ways that you felt as a result.” So, you’re nodding your head.

27:13 Kathryn:  Yeah, no, that all sounds good. That all sounds really…that’s really helpful. Thank you.

27:18  Leslie:  Okay, I’m going to have you do Step 1 and Step 2 by yourself. I’ve practiced this a lot. I got this down pat. [Laughter]

27:28  Kathryn:  Okay, so Step 1: What are the facts?  “You overheard…” Well, Step 1: What are the facts? “You told me things in confidence…” No, no, no, no, I’ve got to start over. Sorry. 

Leslie: Go ahead!

Kathryn: This is really hard. “Okay, so here are the facts. You asked me not to tell Dad and told me things in confidence that you thought that I wouldn’t share with Dad. You overheard our conversation, when I was telling Dad things that you asked me not to tell him. And you overheard that conversation…” That’s it, right?

28:20  Leslie:  And you know what, I’m going to tell you how I’m feeling right now. Because I’m feeling as if I’m your daughter. I’m crying. I’ve got tears welling up. “Because you are saying what I was so hurt about. You are hitting that nerve of pain that I experienced in such a simple, non-threatening way, that I feel validated. I feel like you heard me. I’m like, Oh my God. My mom heard me. She understands how I feel.” And you can’t help but cry. I mean, here I am. It’s not even me. And I’m tearing up. Okay, Step 2. 

29:03 Kathryn:  Okay. This is really helpful. Thank you. Okay, Step 2: What was the effect?

“Okay, so I’m going to try to describe what I think you must have been feeling at that time. And there might be more, because I’m making some assumptions. But I’m going to, I’m going to do my best. Let’s see how, let’s see how I do.

“So, you overheard Dad and I talking about you and, and you must have felt really betrayed. Because you thought that I had promised not to tell Dad, and I was telling him things that you didn’t want him to hear. And you heard us say things like, sometimes…I always love you, but I don’t like you a lot of times—you probably heard that. You heard that we’re having a hard time, we’re really worried about you, and that we’re not sure we can trust you. Like, you’re too immature to be given the level of responsibility or freedom that you’ve been given so far. You probably heard, just, our concerns about you…”

30:16  Leslie:  I want to interrupt you because you’re on Step 2, you’re doing great. Tell her how it might have made her feel.

30:26  Kathryn:  Okay. “…and I can imagine that you might have felt unloved and uncared for, like we were rejecting you as who you are. And I can imagine that that was really painful…

30:43  Leslie:  …yeah. You’re getting emotional now…

30:50  Kathryn:  Yeah…. “And it’s…it’s really hard to overhear that kind of thing about yourself, especially from your parents.”… So, do I go to Step 3 yet? Or is Step 2 the time when I say that I’m sorry? You know, it’s like, I feel really, really sorry about that.

31:06  Leslie:  Well, that moves into Step 3.

31:09  Kathryn:  And I think part of it is:  Am I missing anything? 

31:14  Leslie:  Yes. Am I missing anything? And the things that pop up into my mind, and it doesn’t all need to be figured out, because she might say, “I felt like I disappointed you so much.” But you got it, you got to the heart. And when you show your vulnerability, it’s really honest, and she’s going to more likely show her vulnerability. She’s someone who gets uncomfortable seeing you uncomfortable, because some kids are very uncomfortable seeing their… 

Kathryn: I think she’ll be alright. 

Leslie:  And Step 2 was also, “…and this hurts me deeply, that I may have hurt you deeply.” So because that’s why you cry. It hurts. So you get to add the impact of what happened on you as well. 

32:00  Kathryn:  Well, it hurts me that I’ve hurt her. Not dealing with the broader, like, the impact of her actions on me. So it’s staying focused.

32:10  Leslie:  Exactly. Beautiful. So then you would go to Step 3, what might you do different? What’s the amends?

32:20  Kathryn:  Hmm.

Leslie:  The hard one in this case.

Kathryn:  Yeah. Because I feel like I don’t want to be kept in a box of not being able to tell my husband.

32:31  Leslie:  So you might say, “I’m deeply sorry that we all experienced this. And that”…what would I do different is…

32:41  Kathryn:  …check the closets. [Laughter]   

32:44  Leslie:  What I would do different is, I would go and I would say, “I need to tell Dad.” And I would say, “Now, you have the option of telling Dad yourself, or having me tell Dad. It’s too much for me to hold.” So just say, “I would learn to give you more respect and give myself the self-respect that it was too much for me to hold; but give you the respect that you did ask me not to tell him. Let me let me talk to you about how I how I’m going to go forward handling this so that it’s not behind your back that I tell Dad. But I’m going to tell you that you have the option of telling Dad yourself, or I need to tell Dad. This is important to me, this is not something I can hold. I don’t think you knew that it would not be too much for me. That’s what I would do different, is to give you the respect, because you asked me to hold it in confidence. And I’m deeply sorry that you heard what you did.”

So the amends is…the first two parts, I believe, are incredibly important. The first two parts is where we got her crying when I was listening to you, and we got you crying. Not that the point of it is to get everybody crying. But crying probably means it’s heartfelt. Crying means there’s an injury is getting cleaned out. It’s getting repaired, it’s getting acknowledged. That’s what we want, so that it doesn’t stay infected and fester. So that we have, you know, 18 years of, “Oh my goodness, there’s a list, a litany of…

34:24  Kathryn:  …past wrongs. So just going forward because I’d like to be able to do this, for that specific instance with her. And now it’s kind of…it’s pretty far in the past. I’m just wondering how to approach her to say, Hey, I’d like to…what’s the languaging around? 


34:44  Leslie:  Sure. Forgiveness work doesn’t have a time limit. Forgiveness work can be 30 years later. Forgiveness work is valuable, because you want to acknowledge pain that occurred. And so I would say, “I would like to do something called a three-step apology for what happened when you overheard Dad and I. If you are willing to listen, you don’t need to do anything. If you are willing to listen for me to do a three step apology, I will need about five to eight minutes of your time.

35:25  Kathryn: [Laughter]  

Leslie:  What’s so funny?

35:27  Kathryn:  Well, just scheduling it in. Everything just because, I mean, I need to tell her so she doesn’t feel like she’s going to be there for an hour listening to me lecture her.

35:35  Leslie:  Absolutely. That’s why I said it, because you already told me that she gets overwhelmed and wants to shut down conversations, right? So I’m speaking her language and saying, “Can I have five to eight minutes of your time? I’m not going to even ask you to respond, unless you want to. But this is really about, I would like to acknowledge the injury I caused you.”

Now, sometimes what happens is the other person wants to take responsibility for their part. Okay, just listen. It’s challenging because you don’t want to escalate and get into, “Well, you know, you did…” It’s just, this is about forgiveness. This is about an injury. Keep your focus very clear on—and we’ve already talked about that—not trying to solve the bigger issues, the broader problems and problem solving other things. This is about the injury of what happened on that day. If she wants to take responsibility for her part, great. If she doesn’t, I let it go. 

Kathryn:  Okay.

Leslie:  I let it go. Okay, so that’s that situation. How’s that sound?

36:44  Kathryn:  Good. I’m going to try it in the next day or so.

36:47  Leslie:  Excellent. All right. Take care. 

Kathryn:  All right, thank you.

[Music: Stand in the Forest by Olexy]

Leslie:  I want to thank Kathryn for being open to learning about and committing to the three-step apology. As with most new skills, learning to apologize takes practice, patience and self-compassion. I felt deep respect for Kathryn’s willingness to make the apology first. Apologizing is an act of vulnerability and something we don’t do enough for our children. No matter what age they are, children continue to imitate our behavior. Kathryn’s apology will model for Bridget how to repair relationships throughout her life. 

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Join us next week for my final session with Kathryn, where we explore how to de-escalate conversations when everybody’s emotions are running high. So subscribe to Is My Child a Monster? wherever you get your podcasts and please rate and review. This episode of Is My Child A Monster? was produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and me. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. You can find a full transcript of this episode, resources, and sign up for my newsletter by visiting ismychildamonster.com. I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And this week, I leave you with a challenge: Find an opportunity to apologize to your child for your part in a conflict. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you get from your child.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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