How to Apologize to Your Children

how to apologize to your child
How to Apologize to Your Children

“I love you, and I am so sorry.”

These are some of the most important words that you can use in any relationship, especially when it comes to your relationship with your children. As parents, we often tell our children that they should learn to apologize to people they might have hurt.

We insist that they apologize to their siblings if they did something wrong or to adults if they misbehaved. All the while, when it comes to apologizing to our children ourselves for something we might have done, it becomes an awkward affair.

The Importance of Apologizing To Your Child

Some parents avoid apologizing to their children altogether. They believe the apology will lessen the respect their children have for them. Not only is this bad for your relationship, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for your child’s development.

If someone does something worth apologizing to you for, you respect them more if they apologize sincerely.   Therefore, apologizing for your own behavior will not lessen your child’s respect for you when it is due. It will actually make them respect and love you more. You are also modeling the behavior that you expect from them.

The Consequences of Avoiding Apologies

Most of us feel uncomfortable apologizing. It is not about apologizing to someone younger or older.  Apologising brings up feelings of shame, and weakness, and none of us like to admit to being wrong. Therefore avoiding apologizing to your children will reinforce this feeling and make it difficult for them to apologize to you. Apologies can also often diffuse a situation if your child gets angry often. In my experience children who are often uptight and angry, often feel hurt.

They will also feel that it is alright to damage a relationship, and instead of trying to repair the problem, it is easier not to acknowledge it. Moreover, they may also get the impression that apologizing makes them lose their status.

The Positive Effects of Apologies

When you practice what you preach to your kids, you become proper role models for them to learn the importance of apologies when they are due. It will teach your child that we all make mistakes sometimes, but we can always try to make things better.

They will learn that everybody can hurt anybody, but it is important to own up to the mistakes and make amends for them instead of refusing to acknowledge the issue. Your children also learn that when you apologize to another person, they feel better about you. It is not shameful to apologize. They will even understand that the feelings become mutual. Everybody feels better when an apology is made.

How to Apologise To Your Child

Now the question is, “How to apologize to your child?” It also entails when you should apologize to your child. How you approach your apologies and when is crucial for your relationship with your child.

We are going to go over how and when you should apologize to your children.

  • Acknowledge your child’s point of view. We have all come across situations where your child thinks that something is a big deal. It is essential to acknowledge their perspective, even if it is not a big deal for you personally. Or even if they are being ridiculous. For instance, if you promised your children that you would buy them tickets for a concert on your way back from work, but you forgot, it is a big deal for them. There might be a good reason why you did not.  However, don’t do it casually but look them in the eye and say it sincerely. Explain the reasons, and treat them with respect of empathy. Take time to look them in the eye and have a conversation. Here we discuss how to have difficult conversations with your child.
  • Describe the situation. If you have let them down, they might start misbehaving, and then you yelled at them because you were frustrated or felt guilty. In such a situation, when things simmer down, it is best to describe the problem. It will make it easier for you to transition into an apology. Talk about how you were so tired and frustrated because of something that happened at work. You were already quite upset when you reached home and then got even more upset at yourself for forgetting the tickets. You yelled at your child for making a fuss. Explain that yelling was not a good thing. It never solves anything, and as they saw, it makes things worse. Explain how you should have managed your emotions better, and it’s no excuse. They had every right to be upset, and a lot of the anger you showed them was anger at yourself.
  • Don’t make excuses. Explaining the situation is always a good idea while apologizing but do not ruin the apology by using excuses for your behavior. If you want your child to take responsibility, you must too. In the example above, you are not using your tiredness as an excuse but a reason. The apology is sincere as you are accepting responsibility. Let them know that you are very sorry for yelling at them. Nobody deserves to be yelled at like that, and you should not have let your emotions get the better of you. In your apology, you stress that it is not your child’s fault you forgot, and therefore you should not have responded in that way.
  • Apologize easily. It is not a bad idea to apologize to your child as often as you can. Even something like an “Oops, I’m so sorry I wasn’t paying attention. Could you please repeat what you said?” This will show your child that apologizing for the right things and as often as it is due is not bad. Of course, this does not mean you should start apologizing to your child when they misbehave or break the rules. Do not apologize for telling them that it is bedtime and they should turn off the TV and go to sleep.
  • Exchange feelings of hurt. In any given situation where you need to apologize to your child, make it a point to own up to your responsibilities and mistakes. Consider a situation where your child played with a ball inside the house and broke your mum’s favorite china set.  You are understandably upset, and you could likely lose your temper. Instead of just apologizing for yelling at your child, explain the situation to your child. Let them know that you love them and that you are very sorry for yelling at them. At the same time, let them know that the china set was very dear to you and your feelings got hurt, but you should not have yelled like that. Do stress, though, that they also need to take responsibility for their actions and apologize for breaking the vase. It will likely prompt your child to acknowledge your feeling of being hurt and possibly step up and apologize themselves. They need to realize their role in the argument. For me, their apology is not optional!
  • Try not to blame and shame. Many parents start to apologize to their child, and then the conversation slowly steers towards blaming the child because the child made a mistake. You might say you are sorry you yelled at the child, but the child did something to deserve it. Two wrongs do not come together to make one right. As an adult, you have to be a role model. If you blame your child and make your child feel shame, you defeat the purpose of apologizing completely.
  • Show them you want to make things better. One more thing when you apologize to your child; you want to show them that you meant your apology wholeheartedly. Never make your child feel that they should forgive you just because you apologized. Forcing them to “forgive” you will result in a sense of resentment towards you. Apologies can start to seem hollow to them if they are not given the time and space to reconcile on their own terms. Especially younger children have a very strong sense of injustice.

If you feel like your child has not been able to forgive you even after you have apologized, it is essential to talk to your child about what they are holding on to.

However, if your child is holding on to resentment, there are deeper issues with your relationship or at school that need exploring.

Final Thoughts on How to Apologize to Your Child

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you were wrong. Through a well-mannered and well-timed apology, you can make a significant impact on your child’s development and your relationship with them.

Owning up to your shortcomings will show your children that everybody makes mistakes. They will learn how to take responsibility for their actions and grow up to be healthier human beings. It is about time we dropped the long-standing link between apologies and shame.