Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Apologizing to our kids

“Why did you kick your brother? Did he do anything to provoke you?” I am angry at my eldest son again. He just looks at me, no excuse ready. I want to yell and scream and have his brother hit him back. Many other angry responses come to mind as I stare at his defiant face, but none of them seem constructive. Exasperated, I send him to his room and then go to mine to cool off and figure out what to say to my son.

At least once a week, I lose my temper and yell at one of my kids. I grew up in a home where yelling was commonplace. When I first became a mother I was sure I could parent without ever yelling or getting angry at my kids. The first tests came early and I learned it is much harder to ignore the example set in my childhood than I thought it would be. It takes daily prayer and scripture study to try and keep my patience enough to be a loving and kind parent always to my kids, even when I am tired, hungry, stressed or sick. But I am not perfect and I make mistakes.

The regret of words I didn’t mean to say and know have hurt deeply weigh heavy on my mind once I calm down. Thus the most important thing I have learned to do as a parent is to apologize to my children when I mess up.

“I’m sorry I yelled. I’m sorry for what I said. It was not an okay thing for me to say and I hope you will forgive me. I love you very much. Will you forgive me?”

I do not justify my behavior. I do not place blame for my temper being lost on their behavior. It doesn’t matter. I am the adult, I am the grown up, I am supposed to be the example of appropriate behavior.

If it is a situation where I know how I should have reacted or the things I should have said, we talk through it and I try to rectify the situation with the discussion or by putting the appropriate behavior in to practice right then.

The first time I apologized to my eldest son was hard. I had a voice in my head saying I should not admit weakness, because I would lose my child’s respect. I went through with it anyway and can tell you that the opposite is true. I gained more respect by being willing to admit I was wrong to my son than I had from my poor behavior.

Be willing to say “I was wrong” to your child. It will strengthen your relationship and allow you both to grow as individuals. It will teach your child how to behave with others when they make mistakes.

"It is so important for an adult to apologize because it shows the child it's OK to make mistakes and say you are sorry. When you say, 'I shouldn't have done that,' your child will have a rock-solid sense that her feelings matter to the people who are most important in her life." - John Gottman, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

Another excellent article.

Do you believe in apologizing to your children? What do you do when you feel yourself losing control? What experiences have you had with apologizing to your child?

By Malina. You can learn more Malina and her family at her personal blog.

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