Should You Apologize to Your Child? 5 Things Happen When You Don’t

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Should you apologize to your child when you do something wrong?

Many parents never say sorry when they are wrong because they feel they are more superior than their child, they might lose authority or even feel a little silly doing it.

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Heart with a bandaid on it. Should You Apologize to Your Child? 5 Things Happen When You Don't

And then there are some parents who just don’t believe they are ever wrong…

This is faulty thinking. Apologizing is a sign of respect for your child and the overall relationship you have with him.

Your child will not be young forever. When he becomes an adult, you will want the relationship to naturally change into an equal friendship. If there have been gross offenses along the way, the transition to an adult relationship will be forced, strained, or even possibly broken.

In this post, we will talk about what happens when you don’t apologize to your child, and how to forgive if your parent never apologized to you.

RELATED: 5 Burning Reasons Why You Need to Forgive Those Who Hurt You

5 Things That Happen When You Don’t Apologize to Your Child

1. It Sabotages the Relationship

When you don’t apologize to your child there is a good chance you have sabotaged the relationship. Especially if there have never been apologies throughout the child’s entire upbringing.

Resentment, bitterness, and eventually hatred will form in the heart of your child. A wedge may be created that never gets resolved and no one knows exactly why.

The reason no one knows why there is tension in the relationship is that after years of offenses there is a build up of anger. Children can’t remember exactly what you said, but they do remember how you made them feel.

Your child will never forget how powerless, hopeless, and angry he felt being young and defenseless. These feelings will stay with him forever.

Unresolved feelings will continue to plague a parent/child relationship even through adulthood unless there are genuine apologies made, real change in behavior, and forgiveness for the offenses.

RELATED: How to Break Free From Family Problems For Good

2.  It Creates a Double Standard

When you don’t apologize to your child it creates a double standard. At an early age, most parents start introducing the concept of “I’m sorry.” This is usually introduced before the age of five.

By this time, kids are learning a sense of justice.

They understand an offense and possibly how to make amends for their bad behavior. They know when they bite, hit or throw sand in someone’s face, it’s wrong. Most likely, you are going to demand an apology.

When you do something that is obviously wrong to your child (yell, swear, slap, threaten, verbal or physical abuse, etc.), your child automatically thinks the same thing. There should be an apology. And a genuine change of behavior. It is a logical deduction.

When you don’t apologize, you create an incredible amount of confusion because your child sees that adults don’t have to obey the same rules when it comes to taking responsibility for actions.

There are two sets of rules in the house. The parents’ rules for behavior (which is whatever the parent wants), and the kid’s rules for behavior.

The best policy is for everyone to go by the same playbook-the Bible. ( 1 Corinthians 13 is a good place to begin for proper behavior.) Your children will remember this double standard.

It is not what you say to your kids that stick with them, it is what you do. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

RELATED: 7 Life-Changing Steps to Help You Stop Yelling at Your Kids

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3.  It Sets You Up As God

When you don’t apologize to your child it sets you up as God.

Your child will most likely see you as all-powerful and omnipotent. You are saying that you are sinless.  This is not good faith-based teaching. 

International Standard Version
If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves. I John 1:8

You are now God.

This is confusing because your kids know you are sinful, but since you are the God of the house…they have to go along with it. Everyone has to keep up the perpetual lie that mom and dad are never wrong, nor are they to be questioned for their actions.

What you have really done is create an enormous amount of confusion, anger, and distrust. It is especially confusing if it is the father who is acting God-like.

Your child will have a hard time separating God and dad as different entities. This confusion gets dragged into adulthood causing spiritual disillusionment and possible hatred towards God and/or church.

Sometimes professional help is the only way to separate the two beings-dad and God. Even then, there will always be an emotional scar and a mental default to bad thinking that is constantly trying to be rewired to good thinking.

RELATED: Got Stuck? How to Agree on Faith as a Married Couple

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart book.

You can find Estranged on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

4.  A Teachable Moment Is Lost

When you don’t apologize to your child you have lost a teachable moment. You have lost a moment to set a good example by calling out exactly what you did wrong, taking full responsibility, and making amends.

This not only restores the relationship, but it also reinforces you are not God.

You have made yourself human and show that part of life is failing and starting again.

When you don’t apologize you have lost the chance to be a healthy adult by setting boundaries on what is okay and not okay for everyone in the family.

Most of all, you have now set your children up to believe once they are an adult, they no longer have to apologize to anyone.

RELATED: When You Feel Like You Have Failed as a Parent

5.  It Creates a Lack of Respect

When you don’t apologize to your child you create a lack of respect. Children are smart. They know bad behavior when they see it.

Even young kids know yelling, threatening, pouting, silent treatment, intimidation, domination etc. is not right. They cry, recoil, and go into self-protection mode due to fear and shame.

You can split hairs and rationalize all day about how adults are the ones in charge and they shouldn’t be questioned, but I ask you to step back and look at yourself.

If you could watch yourself on video, what would you see? Would you be able to show that video to your friends?

Think about whether you have created quiet contempt or heartfelt respect and admiration in the heart of your child. You can demand respect from your children through compliance, but you can’t demand respect from their hearts. That is earned.

RELATED: Teacher Secrets to Help Get to Your Child’s Heart

What If Your Parent Never Apologized to You?

1. Reverse it.

If your parents didn’t apologize to you when you were a child then this is an opportunity to reverse the example set.

Think back about how you felt when you were little and had to live under such austere measures. You may not remember what was said, but you do know how you felt. Feelings don’t go away.

Chances are you were angry at your parents for acting badly and never being held accountable. Would you want to do that same thing to the people you love the most?

Do you want to repeat this same kind of behavior for another generation? Then apologize to your child now.

RELATED: Estranged: How to Heal Broken Family Relationships

You can reverse this pattern by being honest with yourself and examining your own behavior. Don’t wallow in self-pity and stay stuck.

If there are people in your life you need to apologize to, then do it. Not a pitiful apology, but one where you name what you did wrong, take full ownership and change.

You will earn more respect in that one gesture and cause an enormous amount of healing. This one thing could change your child’s life and your life.

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Should You Apologize to Your Child: 5 Things Happen When You Don't pin with flowers on it.2.  Forgive

If your parents never apologized to you as a child then this is an opportunity for you to forgive. Forgiveness is for you. Take it by the hand and run with it. Don’t look back. Release it to God and let Him deal with it.

You can’t change what happened to you. It is part of your history, but it does not have to define who you are.

You are only responsible for your part, and that is the forgiveness part.

Tammy Strait, the author of Pretty and blogger of For Every Mom said this :

I realized forgiveness doesn’t excuse the offense. It doesn’t mean you relinquish the pain or say it was OK or doesn’t matter.

Quite the contrary. It merely takes the heavy burden of waiting, convincing, and punishing off your back.

It sets the other person free to come to you on their own, but, more importantly, it sets you free to boldly move forward. 

Related: How to Forgive Those Who Hurt You and Let Go of the Past

Forgiveness means you have given up the right to being the judge and jury. You are choosing to let it go. This is the true strength of a person. It is worth doing.

Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. 

My hope for you today is that you will be the parent who not only forgives but readily admits your faults and works on changing.

You will never regret it, and neither will your family.

Do you apologize to your child?

Do You Have Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you experiencing family problems or even estranged? Are you feeling shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips to help you with your own family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart book with a single tree on the book

Creating Family Memories Book

Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids.  It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.

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Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to share their experiences and get helpful tools to navigate the Christian life. We love to laugh, cry, and encourage each other to live out our faith one day at a time.

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  1. Donna Miller on April 10, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    This is really good! Apologizing to our children does build trust and respect within their hearts. Thank you for this post! ❤

  2. Laura Ketchie on April 10, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Modeling apologetic behavior is so important! This is a great topic. You’ve provided a lot of great advice!

  3. Tara on April 9, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    I love this!!!

  4. Joy on April 9, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    This is such a hard thing to do, not only to apologize to our children, but to anyone. Thank you for this insightful approach to setting a healthy example!

    • Julie Plagens on April 11, 2018 at 6:42 am

      Yes, I find swallowing your pride isn’t too easy. Thanks for reading.

  5. Nancy Bryant on February 3, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Leading by example is important but it was my toddler who actually taught me how to apologize. At a young age, he knows how to say sorry when his wrong and made me realize I should do the same when I’m having bad days. I believe there are a lot of things an adult also has to learn from a child because of their innocence and pure heart. Great read, Julie. Loved this post!

    • Julie Plagens on February 8, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      Thanks for being so honest. I appreciate your comment. I am sure you are an awesome mom who is real and can still be loving. Thanks for reading.

  6. Anne Markey on January 24, 2018 at 5:36 am

    I love all your points. As a parent, I try to apologize every time I snap, or get mad or I know I hurt their feelings. I think by doing so I show them I am human and also make mistakes

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Yes, so true. We are all human. You are setting a good example for your kids.

  7. Heather Gilbert on January 23, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Wrong is wrong and I think when we show our kids we can own up to our mistakes and apologize it is so beneficial for their growth!

    • Julie Plagens on February 1, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      We certainly don’t stop growing when we turn into an adult. I am glad you can be vulnerable wit your kids.

  8. Motherhood in May on January 23, 2018 at 2:29 am

    I loved reading this. I have my bad mom moments, but I always try to make sure my son is understanding why I was upset and how sorry I was that I had to react. These are great stepping stones to an amazing relationship with your children.

    • Julie Plagens on January 23, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read it. Glad you communicate to your kids when you are upset.

  9. Yolanda on January 22, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Such a great read. I think apologizing really comes down to leading by example. If an adult can’t apologize to their child, how on earth can we expect our kids to authentically apologize to us – or anyone?! I think it’s also okay to let them know we aren’t perfect and can make mistakes but we are doing our very best 🙂

    • Julie Plagens on January 23, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      Yes, leading by example is the best way to go. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

  10. Keri on January 22, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Apologizing to our children shows them that we make mistakes too. It also models how to apologize for them!

    • Julie Plagens on January 23, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      I am grateful you model how to apologize. It isn’t easy. Thank you for reading this.

  11. Jordan on January 22, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    I fully agree with this! My husband and I have talked many times about not setting a standard of perfection for our kids, which means admitting that we all have faults and taking ownership of them by admitting to them and apologizing. Our daughter has taken it a step further by apologizing FOR us lately, though (She will tell me “Daddy’s sorry” or something similar lol). Always a process…

    • Julie Plagens on January 23, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      Ha Ha! That’s really cute. I have never heard a child apologizing for the parent. I think she gets it. Thank you for reading this.

  12. Nadene on January 22, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Apologising to our children is essential. I like to call it repair. so important to a healthy relationship

    • Julie Plagens on January 23, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      Repair is a great word. None of can go through life without a little repair here and there. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

  13. SarahGuiler on January 20, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Interesting post on parenting! I don’t have children yet, but I think it’s important for parents to admit when they are wrong and use it as a teaching opportunity and moment of humility. Great post!

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