Do you wonder if you should apologize to your child when you do something wrong? In my last blog, 5 Things Teens Wish Their Parents Knew, one of the students said, “I will not trust an adult who can’t apologize to a kid.” This got my attention because I know many parents feel they don’t owe their kids anything, much less an apology.
Many parents never say sorry when they are wrong because they feel they might lose authority, come off looking weak, or even have a sense of shame when doing it. I think this thinking is faulty thinking. Apologizing is a sign of respect for your children and the overall relationship you have with them.
Your children will not be young forever. When they become adults, you want the relationship to naturally change into an equal role. If there have been gross offenses along the way, the transition will be forced, strained or even in danger of being severed. If you are not apologizing to your kids when you do something wrong then these 5 things are likely happening:
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 been no apologies throughout the child’s entire upbringing. Resentment, bitterness, and eventually, hatred will form in the heart of your child. A wedge is 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 the exact words which were spoken long ago are gone and can’t be remembered. Children can’t remember exactly what you said, but what they do remember is how you made them feel.
Your children will never forget how powerless, hopeless, and angry they felt being young and defenseless. These feelings will stay with them 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.
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 that when they bite, hit or throw sand in someone’s face, it’s wrong, and, most likely, you are going to demand an apology.
When you, the parent, do something that is obviously wrong to your child (yell, swear, slap, threaten, verbal or physical abuse, etc.), the 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 2 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 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.”
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 the One. 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 especially if it is the father who is acting God-like.
Your children 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.
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, it reinforces you are not God, and that you are secure in your place as a parent.
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. (The family rules for behavior.)
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.
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
Have you 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 heart. Respect and admiration from a child’s heart are earned.
What If Your Parent Never Apologized to You?
1. Reverse it.
If your parent didn’t apologize to you when you were a child then this is an opportunity to reverse the example set. Think back to 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 parent 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? 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.
If your parent 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.
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.
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; neither will your family.
Read more tips on how to apologize to your child so you will feel equipped to do it right.
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