How to Apologize to your Children
When the inevitable goof happens, parents should apologize.
It won’t hurt your authority over your family one bit to gather your crying child in your arms and offer a heartfelt apology. You can still dictate what time the children go to bed and that they eat their vegetables at dinner. Their respect and reverence for you as the all-powerful Mom or Dad will not wilt away because you admit you made a mistake. Conversely, it will probably strengthen your relationship. By offering a heartfelt apology, you are modeling the virtue of humility, and you are validating their pain and confusion.
So, here’s how to apologize to your children:
-Take them aside and genuinely tell them you are sorry.
-Explain that your action was wrong and that you will try not to react that way again.
-Reassure them that you love them, and that you want to be a good parent.
-Ask for forgiveness.
Now, here is what you must not do when apologizing to your children:
-Do not make your mistake their fault. For example, their annoying or frustrating behavior did not make you yell. You chose to yell. Do not say, “You were just acting so horridly that I had to yell at you.” Instead, explain that their actions made you feel very frustrated and out of anger you yelled. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize.
-Do not force them to forgive you. Let them forgive you on their own terms, and do not punish them if forgiveness is delayed. Do not say, “Well, I apologized, so if you want a ride to your friend’s house, you better say I’m forgiven.” Model the process of a genuine apology and genuine forgiveness in your home.
-Do not apologize that your children “feel” a certain way. The common statement, “Well, I’m sorry you feel angry,” is not an apology. It is actually kind of a mockery. Your children should be allowed to feel angry. Emotions are not bad; it is the behavior that follows an emotion that has positive or negative consequences. Teach your children how to appropriately handle their emotions by properly explaining your emotions and by apologizing when you make a mistake.
-Do not offer an apology in order to cover-up or erase what happened, and don’t ask your children to keep secrets from the other parent. That is an unfair burden to place on a child. You are responsible for your actions, not them. Along the same note, try not to spoil your children in order to appease your guilt. An abundance of presents and ice cream in exchange for forgiveness does not teach a healthy reconciliation process.
Apologizing to a child takes a great deal of humility. If you can humble yourself enough to get down on your knees and reconcile with your children, you are giving them a beautiful gift. You are showing them that they are valuable, and they are worthy of an apology. Self-esteem will blossom as a result. You are also setting an example that teaches them to apologize to others. Think of the benefits their future careers, marriages, and families. Habits of honesty and forgiveness will lead to more peace at home. The choice to start that habit begins with you.