Restore Your Authority With a Really Good Apology
by Laura Elston
Parents sometimes hesitate to apologize to their children, fearing that admitting parenting fails will destroy their credibility. Au contraire. Mistakes are part of every good life. Who better for children to learn this from than their parents?
The valuable lesson that kids can learn from you is how to handle the inevitable errors that occur. Do you accept with grace that you’re not perfect? Do you say you’re sorry when it’s called for? Or do you stress out and clamp down? What are you modeling for your children about how to respond to being in the wrong?
“When you find yourself acting contrary to your own rules, an apology is important,” says Dr. Sabrina Black, Clinical Director of the Abundant Life Counseling Center in Southfield, Michigan. “Children need to know you are fragile and you can be wrong,” Black says. She doesn’t believe parents should confess all their faults to their children, but says it’s key to acknowledge mistakes, ask for forgiveness – and then drop the issue. (MetroParent.com)
Here’s what a really good apology can do for you.
Give your children a chance to practice forgiveness
Children are eager to forgive you; you are their lifeline. But forgiving is a skill that takes practice. By making a sincere apology, you’re offering your kids practice in forgiveness, one of life’s most valuable skills.
Reduce your guilt
Who feels worse when you treat a child poorly, you or him? You do. Have you ever indulged your child shamelessly for a week because of saying or doing a dumb thing? Parents feel awful about being unfair to their children, and an apology is a good way to let go of the guilt.
Repair your relationship
Relationships are largely about trust. Trust is a necessary condition for having authority with children. When you acknowledge and apologize for a mistake, it repairs your child’s trust in you.
Deepen your bond
An apology exposes your vulnerability. This can be hard for loving parents who want their children to feel safe and protected. Contrary to intuition, your being occasionally vulnerable makes children feel safer. They learn that things can go wrong, be fixed, and life goes on happily.
How to make a really good apology.
- Make eye-contact, which increases the child’s perception of sincerity.
- Apologize in the manner that your child likes best. What seems like a good “I’m sorry” to you may not be effective for him. Does he like certain words? Does he like a hug or a kiss? If you don’t know, this is a good chance to find out.
- Give a reason. People forgive more readily when offered a reason. Just remember that a reason is not an excuse.
- Don’t repeat the mistake. Eliminating the offensive behavior is a real sign of being sorry.