Recognizing the importance of apologizing to your children is a crucial aspect of healthy parenting. Children benefit greatly from hearing their parents apologize to them, and by learning how to apologize to one another, you can deepen your relationship and foster an environment of trust and understanding.
Instead of being a nice break, the five days of my first grader’s school vacation were spent with me working from home and my seven year old son had nothing to do. While waiting for a supermarket delivery slot one afternoon, I recommended she begin a pastel portrait. I gave her instructions from the kitchen table, but she smeared red pastels all over the dining room chair since she hadn’t protected it with a towel.
Saying, “Cover that chair!” While I was steam-cleaning the furniture, I yelled at her. That’s when her tears started. Both my own explosiveness and her carelessness were causing me a great deal of anger. Then I needed clarification about my future steps.
Personally, I had become a more irritable parent due to increased anxiety and a lack of time spent alone. The shame I felt was very real, and I know I’m not alone.
Due to the common misconception that apologizing is a sign of weakness, some parents have a hard time admitting mistakes to their kids. Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., director of the Barnard College Institute for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Survive, explains that parents often feel threatened by their young children because they fear they will lose control if they admit a mistake. This is a widespread misunderstanding, but it couldn’t be further from the reality.
Here, professionals share their advice on how to apologize to children constructively.
You Must Take Into Account Their Pain
According to Dr. Klein, “it’s unsettling for a child when a parent is unhappy with [them]. To mend a broken relationship, “show [them] you honestly acknowledge you damaged [their] feelings,” as the saying goes.
It would have been acceptable for me to say, “I’m sorry, “I apologize for losing my temper and shouting at you about the pastels. That must have really hurt your feelings. The next time we meet, I’ll attempt to demonstrate first to spare you the chair.”
Dr. Klein emphasized that I should express regret for my error, but not for having reasonably expected her to set up her work area. According to her, kids need routines and boundaries, which may be established by assigning age-appropriate duties and asking for help.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
Professor and New York Times bestselling author Susan Shapiro interviewed many grown children who felt wronged by their parents as youngsters. They all wished to be acknowledged, comprehended, and loved. She explains that the first step in an appropriate apology is to recognize the error, insult, or insensitivity committed.
Explain the Reasons Why
In his opinion, “people aren’t always self-aware,” Shapiro argues. They get set in their roles, and shifting the dynamic between them is difficult. Giving kids an explanation for your bad behavior will help them understand and have compassion for you.
She proposed it as an apology to my teen for the time I had angrily waved her away while she was looking for some alone time on another occasion: “I apologize for my agitation.
Due to my inability to concentrate, I pushed you away without listening.”
Assure It Won’t Happen Again
Dr. Klein adds that in order to properly apologize, one must first take responsibility for their actions. “But, this is not an excuse to exhaust yourself trying to make up for past transgressions with your children. Apologizing from the heart teaches children empathy and fosters relationships that will serve them well in adulthood.”
I could have shown more effort by telling my child, “Next time, instead of yelling at you, I’ll try to take a deep breath first.”
Put Your Thoughts Forward Concisely and Clearly
Young people learn that no one is perfect when they hear real and direct expressions of regret. If kids make mistakes in life, it’s important that them know it’s Acceptable, adds Shapiro.
An effective apology teaches children that “there is room to heal and to reconnect especially if they’ve wounded someone,” as Dr. Klein puts it. Parental examples of sincere apologies can help youngsters develop the skills they’ll need to maintain positive relationships as adults.
Molly Howes, Ph.D., was cited by Shapiro as the source for the advice to maintain composure and ask unbiased questions. If you ask someone else, “How do you feel?” they may be able to shed light on what happened that you missed. The question “How can I make it up to you?” that follows an apology often elicits specific actions aimed at easing the victim’s emotional pain.
Shapiro suggested I include the following in an apology to my kid after learning of her fondness for medical dramas: “Want to chat tonight over hot chocolate and Grey’s Anatomy?” The act of making this amends demonstrates to my kid that her emotions are understood and respected. By accommodating her need for quality time together, I can demonstrate my appreciation for the significance of our connection.
Say “I’m Sorry” Whenever Appropriate
Wrongdoers may make amends using non-traditional means. They’ll do nice things for others and give presents. But, according to Shapiro’s interviews with grown offspring, they all agreed on one thing “It’s true that there are substitutes for an apology, but in every case, the recipient would have preferred to hear those two words. The substitute for genuine apology felt like payment in lieu of the wrong done.”
Don’t leave out those two words when you say you’re sorry.