A hard truth: One of the toughest things about being a parent is the mistakes we make.

When I was a parent, I got lucky. I followed my best instincts and made some good things happen.

But nobody’s perfect, as they say, and I also lost my temper quite a few times. I said things and did things that I later regretted. I cringe when I think about these memories.

This was back in the 70s, and I was completely ignorant about the notion that there were very effective communication skills that I could have used instead. I would learn about them later.

These days I reflect on how innocent little kids are. That is, they’re born with a blank slate and know nothing about themselves, other people, and the world until they – if they’re lucky – learn about these things later in life. Even teenagers are amazingly naïve about themselves, other people, and the world.

So young people are going to make mistakes and react in ways that disturb you, frustrate you, disappoint you, or anger you.

And you – how will you react when this happens? Will you, as I did, say or do things that you later regret?

Of course you will. Every parent does. It’s natural to feel the strong emotions that flash up when your child does something or says something that really bothers you.

But if you succumb to these emotions and say or do something impulsively to strike back, which is a natural human reaction, you could chip away at the relationship between you and your child. You could do damage that would be hard to undo. You could alienate your child. Or worse.

This is one of the most difficult and painful aspects of parenting, and it’s the downfall of many parents.

Two things can save you.

The first thing: You can gradually build a habit of pausing before you say or do anything triggered by a flash of emotion.

You can  learn to react with a pause to cool down  while you decide about doing the second thing: to engage one of several very effective parent-child communication skills. These are the skills I didn’t know about back in the day, when I was raising my two sons.

I describe them in detail in the book, Connect with Your Kid: Mastering the Top 10 Parent-Child Communication Skills. If you’re still parenting growing children, I strongly recommend that you check out Chapter 2 of this book.