As parents, we all know the importance of exchanging I love you’s with our kids. The words do not only express how much we love and care for them, but they also strengthen our relationship. What if we told you there was another set of words that are just as important, but you might not be giving just as much attention to? How often do you say “I’m sorry” to your kids? While there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, today we shed some light on the not-as-common practice of parents saying sorry to their kids. No parent is perfect, so it is inevitable and totally acceptable to make some mistakes along the way. What’s more important is what happens after and how you choose to act moving forward. If you’re still unsure or need some more convincing, here are 5 reasons why we think it’s okay for parents to say sorry (when at fault, of course) sometimes, too!
Relationships are a two-way street. Making mistakes, forgiving each other, and growing together can only strengthen your bond. When you think you may have wronged your kid, accepting responsibility and apologizing will actually have a positive impact on your relationship. It can be a learning opportunity for the both of you. As the parent, you learn to balance humility and discipline. While as the child, you learn to accept and to forgive. It’s no secret that sincere apologies work wonders, so why not maximize their impact on parenting?
Your kid might be feeling hurt or even afraid, but you’ll never know for sure unless you talk to them. They might not feel comfortable opening up to you immediately, but do let them know you’re sorry and ready to make-up and listen, if they want to talk. Acknowledge their feelings make the effort to show you’re doing your best to prevent it from happening again. By taking responsibility for your actions and mistakes, you are also accountable for how your actions made your child feel. You can always follow up with “peace offerings” like apologizing over ice cream or ordering their favorite food, when you deem it appropriate.
When you take the time to explain what caused the mistake, it makes the whole situation much more relatable. Whether you had a long day at work or you were stressed out by your never-ending to-do list, it helps to explain what really caused your frustration and the subsequent mistake. You might even save your kid from wondering if he or she did something to cause the behaviour. Have you been feeling frustrated and losing control of your temper lately? No need to worry—it happens even to the best of us. Here’s our guide to help stay calm when you’re having one of those days.
You are your kid’s favorite role model. Needless to say that one of the most effective ways to teach them to apologize when they’ve done something wrong is to practice what you preach. Normalize thoughtfully apologizing, so when they find themselves in a similar situation, they have a good idea how to respond. Carefully choose the words you will use, as well as their delivery, so your kid really understands the meaning behind it and learns from experience how an apology would make its recipient feel.
Aside from the how’s of an apology, getting into the habit also teaches acceptance of each other’s flaws as well as the power of forgiveness. It’s great to encourage kids to strive to be good and to get better, but it’s just as important to accept and forgive when at times, they fall short. We’re quick to give affirmations when kids get a good grade or voluntarily share their toys with siblings. But do we give as much attention to the not so “proud” moments? When we apologize and admit our wrongs, it teaches kids that it’s important to make the situation right and move forward.
- Holly Rizzuto Palker, How to Apologize to Your Kids the Right Way—And Why It’s Important, March 2021.
- Robin McClure, Teach Kids When and Why They Should Say Sorry, June 2019.
- Steve Silvestro, The Power of Apologizing to Your Kids, n.d.