No matter your age, it can be hard to apologize. It involves having to swallow your pride and admit fault. When my kids are mean to each other, they need to apologize and make up. I have taught them that this is the right way to deal with and move on from a conflict. Parents often have a hard time saying sorry, but it can be vital in showing your kids that you are human. It is also crucial in building a relationship based on trust. While you are the authority figure, you also need to show them that it is important to recognize when you are wrong.
Everyone makes mistakes, and owning up to them is an important lesson. As a parent, you get frustrated and may overreact. You may treat your children unfairly due to your mood, frustration, or lack of sleep. These are the instances that I have found that I apologize for the most to my children. Being a parent is hard, and it gets to you. I have fully admitted when I have overreacted and made sure to give my kids a true apology.
A True Apology
This type of apology is genuine. You may say things to your kids like, “I’m sorry, but it’s time for a nap,” or something like that to lessen their reactions. This type of statement is not an apology. A true apology is one that clearly outlines what you did wrong so that the child can understand. It involves you taking responsibility and making sure not to shift the blame back on your child. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me upset,” you should phrase it differently. Focus on what you did wrong instead of shifting blame. Instead, say something like, “I overreacted. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that. I’m sorry.” This type of apology offers no excuses and recognizes fault. It can be tempting to explain why you yelled, but it is not about justifying your actions. It is about acknowledging that you did or said something wrong or unfair.
What a True Apology Teaches You and Your Kids
True apologies do six critical things for parents and children.
1. Learning right versus wrong.
Understanding the difference between right and wrong is one of the most valuable lessons that your child will learn. As a parent, you help develop your child’s conscience. By apologizing for something wrong, your child will begin to conceptualize right and wrong.
2. Building your relationship.
When you offer true apologies to your children, it will help build good relationships. Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledging these mistakes is important in strengthening relationships. You will build trust with your kids, improve your bond, and validate their feelings. If you stick to your words or actions when you have treated your children unfairly or are incorrect, you may lose their trust. They may also be less likely to apologize when they make a mistake if they continuingly witness your unwillingness to do the same.
3. Taking responsibility.
Even kids as young as toddlers can learn how to take responsibility for their actions. When you take responsibility, you are teaching your kids how to as well. Your willingness to be vulnerable is impactful. They will remember your bravery and why it is important. There are things that everyone hates doing, and apologizing is one of them, but it is necessary.
4. Learning how to apologize.
Your kids model your behavior and are interested in doing many of the things you do. Apologizing to your children will help them gain the courage to apologize for themselves. They will see your example and be able to model it. It is hard to admit mistakes, and the compulsion of self-preservation can be hard to work against. Witnessing how you apologize will help them apologize later on, even if they are afraid of the consequences.
5. Learning forgiveness.
Because everyone makes mistakes, learning how to forgive is an essential life skill. Holding grudges can be harmful to both parties. By being able to forgive and let go, your children will be better able to navigate the world and their future relationships.
6. Becoming a better parent.
In addition to teaching your child valuable lessons and improving your relationship, apologizing is beneficial for you as a parent as well. You are never too old to learn and grow. Apologizing to your child will help you grow as a person and help you learn how to admit your mistakes.
Saying sorry to your kids is not a weakness. It is a strength to be able to admit your mistakes. You will show them how to apologize, why it is important, and that you respect them. They will better navigate their future relationships and trust in the one they have with you.