Repair Your Mistakes: Apologize to Your Kids

Father and daughter hugging

The Bible says the children are a blessing from the Lord. That’s a big, sobering statement because as their parents we have the responsibility to raise them well. There are days when I feel like I get it wrong and I know I have to repair the relational wounds and distance I created.

Let’s look at parenting from 10,000 feet for a minute. Most parents have their feet fairly firmly planted in one of the following camps. They are either:

  1. Do as I say parents (lead by instruction)
  2. Do as I do parents (lead by example)

I realize that I am painting with a pretty broad brush here, and that it is possible, and healthy, to have your feet in both camps. Think of it this way; do as I say parenting is rooted in structure while do as I do parenting is rooted in nurture, and we know that our kids need both structure and nurture from us.

In the interest of full disclosure this post is probably going to be difficult for the do as I say crowd. I get that it is often, if not always, the path of least resistance to be a do as I say parent. However, following the path of least resistance is not always what our kids need from us. What they need is for us to meet them where they are and to build trust through stronger connection.

One of the best things we can do for our children is apologize to them when we have acted poorly and harmed the relationship. The simple act of saying “I’m sorry for what I did” and “will you please forgive me?” can be difficult at times, but modeling humility and repairing mistakes are two of the best investments we can make.

How do we teach our children to apologize? Simple, we apologize to them.

Most of us will usually just say “I’m sorry” when we wrong someone because it’s easy and almost dismissive, but a real apology requires you to humble yourself, admit what you did wrong and ask for forgiveness.

We found that saying sorry was the easiest part of the equation. Learning to say what we were sorry for was hard to remember at first, but with enough practice we started to get it.

The second part required a lot more effort. Asking for forgiveness is hard on its own, but asking for forgiveness from a six year old because you yelled at them for running in the house is harder still. “Why should I apologize to her? She was running in the house” I would tell myself. But then it occurred to me…I’m the adult and I have the greater responsibility and the higher standard to live up to.

It’s important to remember that apologizing is a two step process. In order for things to be made right forgiveness must be specifically asked for and granted.

Here is an example of a dialogue between me and my six year old daughter after I yelled at her:

Me: I’m sorry that I yelled at you.
Her: Thank you daddy.
Me: Will you please forgive me?
Her: Of course I will.
Me: Thank you sweetie.

That was a lot simpler to write than it was to do for the first time or the second time…or the third time. I think you get the point. But if you will do it sincerely and consistently it will become easier.

We have to model apologizing for our children. The only way they will learn how to apologize is if we show them.

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This post originally appeared on tapestryministry.org

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1 Comment

  1. We have taught ours to respond to an “I’m sorry” (from us or anyone else) with “I forgive you” instead of “it’s okay.” Because most of the time, the offense was NOT okay. The reactions of others to this response are incredibly interesting–they’re mostly talking with their little friends, but the parents who overhear are often initially taken aback. When I explain why we encourage them to forgive rather than “let it go,” most of the adults see the point, although one mom told me she thought I was being too picky. That’s not really nice, but it’s her opinion. I forgive her. 🙂

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