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Apologizing to your child when you are wrong isn’t easy, but it is necessary if you want a good relationship.
Sadly, many parents never say sorry because they feel they are more superior to their children. Furthermore, they think they would lose authority if they admitted wrong. In fact, some think they would lose respect. That it somehow goes against the natural order of things.
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And then some parents never admit they are wrong because they don’t think they are wrong. Ever.
This is faulty thinking. Apologizing to your child is a sign of respect for 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.
Learn to apologize so that you will have a good relationship not only now but also in the future. If you are still not convinced, here are five reasons why you should reconsider owning your bad behavior.
Apologizing to Your Child: 5 Things Happen When You Don’t Say Sorry
Here are five reasons why apologizing to your child is important. Consider these things before you decide to walk away and not take ownership of your bad behavior:
1. It Sabotages the Relationship
Apologizing to your child is important so you don’t sabotage the relationship.
If there have been no apologies ever then resentment, bitterness, and eventually hatred will form in the heart of your child throughout his childhood. 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 that include a real change in behavior and forgiveness for the offenses.
2. It Creates a Double Standard
Apologizing to your child is important so you don’t create 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. And mom is going to make me apologize when I do it.
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.”
3. It Sets You Up As God
Apologizing to your child is important so you do not set yourself up as God.
Your child will most likely see you as all-powerful and omnipotent if you never take responsibility for your actions. You are saying that you are sinless. In fact, you have set yourself up as the god of the family.
I John 1:8 states, “If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves.”
Not apologizing to your kids is wrong 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.
4. A Teachable Moment Is Lost
Apologizing to your child is an opportunity 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.
5. It Creates a Lack of Respect
Apologizing to your child is important so you create a common understanding of respect for each other. Children are smart. They know bad behavior when they see it.
Even young kids know yelling, threatening, pouting, silent treatment, intimidation, domination, etc. are not right. They cry, recoil, and go into self-protection mode due to fear and shame when a parent comes after them.
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.
Should a Parent Apologize to a Child?
If you have done something wrong, then it is important to apologize to your child.
However, if you know you are not wrong, then you can still listen to your child’s feelings. Sometimes kids just need to be validated for how they feel about your decision and have time to process it.
Teenagers, especially, have a heightened sense of justice when they are wronged, so it is important to take care of it quickly.
Over time, they may hold a grudge and become difficult to deal with if you do not address the problem. Furthermore, they may obsess on the offense and fall into self-pity or even depression.
“And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:4 ESV).
How Do You Apologize to a Child?
If you are going to take the time to apologize to your child, then you might as well get it right. Here are three things to remember when apologizing to your child.
First of all, you need to admit what you have done wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Don’t say,” If I hurt you, I’m sorry,” or “If you would have put your shoes on, I wouldn’t have yelled.”
A better example is something like, “Mommy lost her temper. I am so sorry. I should not have acted that way. Will you forgive me. I will do better next time.”
The second sentence takes ownership of behavior while the first sentence blames the child. A good apology is one that owns the offense, asks for forgiveness, and makes effort to change in the future.
Second, don’t blame or shame your child.
Even though your kid may be annoying or disobeyed for the tenth time, don’t shift the blame to him. Furthermore, don’t shame him with careless words like “If you weren’t so obnoxious, I wouldn’t have to yell at you all the time.”
Your words matter. What you say will play over and over in your child’s head for years. Make sure your words are words of love and healing, not blame and shame.
Third, this is not about winning and losing
Apologizing to your child means everyone wins. This is about a relationship, not a wrestling match. Stop thinking you are on opposing teams. You are in this together as a family. You either all work together or you become fractured. Fractured families don’t stay together for very long because they are constantly destructive to each other.
What to Do When Your Child Won’t Apologize
If you will readily apologize for your behavior, then your child will probably be more willing to do the same. Every once in awhile, you may get a child who is obstinate and won’t say sorry when he is wrong.
In this case, I would ask him to go to his room and think about what happened. When he is ready to come out and apologize, he can join the rest of the family.
If he truly doesn’t feel like he did anything wrong, hear him out. Ask questions.
If he is stalling, send him back to his room for more time to think. When he can take full ownership of his behavior and ask for forgiveness then allow him out.
Teenagers are a little different. It is my view that they are too old to send to their room until you get a heartfelt apology.
However, you can ask for one and hope you will get it. Explain how their behavior hurts your relationship. If they still don’t say sorry, pray for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their bad behavior. You can give consequences, but you can’t change their heart. Only God can.
What do you do to make things right when apologizing to your child?
Do You Have Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
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