By Marcia Hall
Parenting is supposed to be about being in charge of the family, having control and being the wise adult is any situation. For that reason, a lot of parents feel that apologizing sends a message of weakness and ineffectiveness to their children. However, there are some really great arguments for why parents should say they are sorry to their child when the parent has done something wrong.
- It helps the child understand what it means to be “sorry.” Unfortunately, these days the word “sorry” is often misused in our world. Adults rarely say it to other adults, but frequently force their children to say it. This situation should be changed. When parents step up and admit fault to a child it helps the child understand from another perspective what it means to feel remorse for an action. The person that caused her pain now feels bad about what he did and is coming to her to ask for forgiveness. This shifts the focus from “I have to say these words” to “I should feel this way.”
- It models healthy lifelong behaviors to your children. When parents require their child to say “sorry” for what she has done, the parents real desire is that she will eventually say “sorry” for wrong actions, even when mom or dad is not around. However, the only way to help your child develop a desire to apologize on her own is to create an atmosphere of remorse in your home. When parents apologize for their slips, large and small, this environment begins to form.
- It helps your child to see you as the imperfect person that you are. Your child is going to mess up and make mistakes. This is not because she is a bad child, but because she is human and it is our human nature to mess up from time to time. When parents show their humanity by admitting their guilt to their child and requesting the child’s forgiveness, it helps the child to see that making mistakes is a part of life and is nothing to be afraid of or even ashamed of. This will help his self-image to be founded in this truth. “Mistakes happen, but you can mend broken relationships or fix problems though a sincere apology and move forward trying to do better next time.”
- It connects the parent and child together. Nothing separates a relationship more than when you hurt another person with words or actions. A yell here and a push there can really add up. Certainly, there are times when parents have to make choices in order to protect the child. It is likely that the child will be hurt by some of these decisions, words and actions. This may not be the best time to apologize to your child. Validation of the child’s hurt and actions of love are what is needed in these times. However, when a parent steps over the line, forgets to stop and listen to the child’s point of view, yells without thinking it through or hurts the child out of anger, the parent is in the wrong. When that happens, a connection with the child is broken. It is then up to the parent to rebuild and repair that relationship though words and actions.
Saying “sorry” to your child does not make you any less of a parent in your relationship with your child. It may take some of the power you have over her away. However, the goal of parenting is not to dominate every situation that children are in, but to guide, direct and be an example of the right way to interact with others.