INSIDE: Learn how apologising to your kids helps gain their respect and strengthen your relationships. Plus tips on how to apologise effectively so that your kids follow your example!
I remember a parent once telling me that she didn’t believe in saying sorry to her kids even when she knew she was wrong. She thought that this would undermine her authority and make her appear weak in the eyes of her children.
I found this approach somewhat unsettling and took some time to reflect on it. I wondered what this might teach our kids. Did we want them growing up to believe that people in positions of authority should never apologise to those lower ranking than themselves? What kind of boss would that make them in the years ahead? How would we feel about their teachers taking this attitude?
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We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Sometimes we see red, scream at our kids, slam doors or unfairly remove their privileges. Occasionally, we say things we later deeply regret. After moments such as these, is it right not to say sorry? I don’t think so. I believe there is real power in being prepared to apologise to our kids when we are in the wrong.
Surely, we should always say sorry for our mistakes, regardless of the other person’s age. In a way, this is akin to my stance on smacking. I wouldn’t dream of smacking an adult, so what makes it ok to smack my kids?
To me, there is no logic in trying to teach my children not to hurt other people while at the same time hitting them for doing something wrong. Surely this is just confusing for the child and hypercritical on my part?
Similarly, how can I expect my children to apologise when they have done wrong if I’m not prepared to do the same? Kids model their behaviour on what they see. If we don’t hurt people, then they are unlikely to either. Equally, if we’re not prepared to apologise, then why should they be?
The Need to teach
Saying sorry isn’t easy. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. It’s awkward and uncomfortable – a skill we have to learn and practise.
There’s nothing more frustrating than than an insincere apology
How often have you asked your child to apologise, only to be disappointed with the result? Frequently, the most we get is a half mumbled, ‘sooorrrryyy,’ without the heartfelt sincerity we had hoped for. It’s just a word, something they say because we tell them to, but time and again, they don’t mean it.
But how do we change this? How do we get our kids to regret their actions and give an honest apology? We need to teach them, and we do this by giving them an example to follow. In my view, an apology’s power as a parenting tool is vastly underestimated by many parents.
Reflect on this for a minute: Have you actually ever taught your kids how to apologise? When it comes to such a difficult skill, we often expect our kids to be proficient at it without having ever really shown them how.
Be an example they can follow
So next time you are in the wrong, use it as an opportunity to teach your child how to say sorry. Show some humility, explain what you did wrong and give an honest and heartfelt apology. If your kids feel that you are sincerely sorry, they are far more likely to learn from your example and follow suit the next time they make a mistake. Such is the power in receiving a heartfelt apology.
Build trust and stronger relationships by apologising
Relationships are strengthened when hurts are healed, not ignored. This is why we should always be prepared to say sorry to those we hurt, no matter who they are or what age they may be.
Apologising to our kids makes us better people as well as better parents. But it also develops our children’s trust in us and earns their respect. After all, it’s easy to admire someone who can be humble, admit when they are wrong and say sorry. Such a person shows real strength of character.
By having a parent who is prepared to apologise, kids learn that nobody is perfect, it’s ok to make mistakes and the importance of sincerely expressing remorse when necessary. It teaches them how to take responsibility for their own mistakes and learn from them.
The ability to apologise is a powerful and valuable life skill. Kids that know how to give a genuine apology will be better prepared to resolve conflicts with their friends and later at work or within their adult relationships.
Related post >>> How to Have a Happy Family: 45 Top Secrets to Success
How to Apologise
To effectively apologise to our kids, there are a few essential steps to include.
We all have times when we are stressed, tired or running late. In moments such as these, it’s so easy to lash out at our kids by shouting or saying something unkind. But it’s important to remember that it’s not their fault; it’s ours. We need to quickly recognise the need to apologise to our kids and not make excuses for our behaviour.
Sometimes we can tell ourselves that a situation was trivial, so we try to dismiss it and move on. But it’s important to understand that what might seem insignificant to us, such as embarrassing our kids in front of their friends, could be a much bigger deal to them.
Apologise Without Blame
The way we phrase an apology can be powerful. We should demonstrate that we take responsibility for our actions without blaming others or external factors.
Let me give you an example. It’s fairly common for me to get a bit stressy if my house is a mess when I’m expecting visitors. I run around like a frantic cleaning fairy, and it doesn’t take much for me to lose my temper if I think that my kids aren’t helping me clean up. In situations like this, I can end up shouting or saying something I later regret.
When this happens, I may feel bad for lashing out at my kids and realise that I owe them an apology. The best way to approach this would be by saying, “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you. I’m feeling anxious because I hate the house being untidy when we have guests coming over. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.” This would be far more effective than, “I’m sorry I snapped, but you could see the house was a mess, and you did nothing to help me.”
I would need to recognise that my kids’ unwillingness to help out was not my primary concern in this scenario. That was a separate issue for another conversation. My stress levels, consequent bad temper, and the unkind things I may have said were the issues at this moment; the reason I needed to apologise. It’s important not to confuse the two.
It is counterproductive to apologise while still effectively blaming our kids for our behaviour. If we stand on their toy and break it, it’s better to say, “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going, “rather than, “Well, I’m sorry, but maybe if you didn’t leave your stuff lying around, I wouldn’t have stood on it.”
By taking responsibility for our actions rather than making excuses, our kids will learn to do the same. Such is the power of an apology. If we were late for their school play, then saying, “I’m sorry I was late. I didn’t leave enough time to get through the heavy traffic,” would be better than, “I’m sorry I was late. The traffic was awful.”
Give older kids some context
With older kids, giving them the context for our actions can help them to understand emotions and human behaviour. By explaining the background to a situation, you can help them learn to empathise and see things from different people’s perspective.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
When we shout or slam doors, our kids may feel hurt or scared. They often feel angry when we do something wrong, especially teenagers. Take time to ask their view about what happened and to tell you how they felt about it. It’s important to apologise for making them feel this way. Acknowledging their feelings is an essential component of an authentic apology.
Allow Them to Respond but Keep it Short
Once you have apologised, wait for your child to respond, even if this takes a little time. Allow them to be cross, to express the injustice of the situation. But then demonstrate how to move on and let things go. If you continue to debate, it just prolongs the drama and stops you all moving forward. A brief but sincere apology will be most effective and serves as an excellent example to your child.
Make a Change
An empty apology is worthless. Once we’ve said sorry, it’s paramount that we do what we can to make things right. If we apologise for shouting but then yell at them again the next time we get stressed, our kids will soon see us as insincere. They’ll mistrust what we say and won’t see anything wrong with giving a fake apology themselves.
Instead, we need to teach our kids that we genuinely regret our actions and that we intend to change. When they see us actively try to make things better, they will learn to do the same. If you are prone to losing your temper, learning and practising a new parenting technique may help. My book, The Peaceful Parent, is packed with advice to help you keep your cool when your kids press your buttons and practical tips on how to raise happy and respectful kids.
I hope I’ve helped you recognise the power in apologising to our kids and the best way to go about doing this. I know it’s not easy, but the benefits can profoundly transform our relationships with them. I’d love to hear about your experiences and what works for you. Remember, parenting is a journey. None of us are perfect, but we can all strive to get better, one step at a time.
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