I am sorry. These are three simple words that can be difficult to say for many people, especially parents. Many parents struggle with apologising to their children because they feel that the children will lose respect for them. Some also feel like the kids will take advantage of the apology. However, the opposite is true- children don’t lose respect for their parents when they apologise.
Avoiding apologies could also send the wrong message to your children. Moving on after you’re in the wrong and acting as though everything is okay could have several lessons for your kids.
- Children could learn that you should only apologise when forced to and this also takes away the sincerity of the apology.
- You’re also telling your child that apologising takes away something from you and you lose your status.
- Avoiding apologies also reinforces the idea that apologising should be associated with shame.
- Kids could also think that it’s okay not to acknowledge their mistakes since their parents don’t own up to their mistakes.
- In older children like teenagers or preteens, they could blame themselves for their parent’s actions and internalise these feelings.
How should you apologise to kids?
1. Acknowledge their hurt feelings
As an adult when people wrong you, an apology makes you feel better because the person recognizes how their behaviour affected you and the same applies to children. You probably had a stressful day and you end up yelling at your kids in a frightening way. Let your apology show that you acknowledge your tone may have scared them and make them feel safe again.
2. Apologise without making excuses
Human beings make mistakes and being a parent doesn’t exempt you from being in the wrong. It’s not unusual to project your stress on other people, especially children whom you might feel are all over your space when you’re irritable. You might take it out on them. Be accountable for your actions. While you might be going through something difficult, it’s not okay to take it out on your children. Explain why you did what you did but acknowledge you responded inappropriately. Making excuses teaches your kids that they are justified to throw tantrums when things don’t go their way too.
Don’t just stop at saying you’re sorry but also explain the circumstances surrounding your actions. For example, if you promised to buy your child a present once they performed better in school but a financial emergency came up, don’t act like the child is acting entitled to a gift you offered in the first place. Sit the child down and let them know that while you intended to honour your promise, your hands are tied at that moment. Tailor the explanation depending on your child’s age so that they understand.
4. Discuss solutions
An apology is only as good as what you do after it. Explain to your kid what you intend to do after asking for forgiveness. If you forgot to pick up something from the supermarket on your way home, you could promise to buy it the following day. With older children apologising could present a forum for deeper discussions. Listen to the feedback and come up with solutions together.
5. Don’t bribe your children
Some parents attach gifts and other material items to their apologies. Bribing kids to forget your mistakes dilutes the importance of an apology. It could also form unhealthy patterns where parents throw money at conflicts and children expect bribes once they’re wronged. A sincere apology should be enough. Any other feel-good item such as enjoying a favourite snack should not be linked to the apology but as a bonding activity.
6. Apologise frequently
Asking for forgiveness becomes a difficult task because they hardly apologise so it becomes a bigger deal than it should be in many circumstances. It’s polite to say sorry if you scare someone or bump into them. Don’t tell your child, “Why are you not watching where you’re going?” Yet, you were the one who was in a hurry and didn’t see them. Instead casually say, “I am running late, sorry I didn’t see you.” Apologising often for small things makes it easy to have uncomfortable discussions when something significant has happened, creates an environment where your family members acknowledge their mistakes and you bring up polite children.
7. Be sincere
Don’t you hate it when someone apologises to you because they want you to stop dwelling on an issue? An apology means you recognize you did something wrong and you acknowledge your actions hurt someone else and you intend to do better. Connect with your child while apologising by maintaining eye contact, being specific on what you’re apologising for and explaining.
It is important to reinforce boundaries and limits with your children. So, while apologising is important, it’s necessary for children to know the limits. Parents, however, are humans who also act out when angry or when under pressure leading them to act inappropriately with their children. It’s advisable to take the time to calm down before apologising so you can find the right words.
Asking for forgiveness from your children is important because it models accountability. Children learn more from observing rather than from what they’re told. Having the right attitude towards apologising can also help you become more aware of yourself as an individual and as a parent as well as improve your relationship with your child.
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