Parent Apologies: Three Benefits To Saying “I’m Sorry”
Updated: May 18, 2020
Recently, my youngest daughter and her friend made some decadent, orange creamsicle cupcakes. After everyone enjoyed one, the girls placed the remaining nineteen cupcakes into a plastic container and left them on our counter.
The next morning, I noticed all the cupcakes were gone. I asked my kids who had eaten them, but they each denied eating more than one. I knew I hadn’t eaten any and my husband doesn’t like icing, so I knew it wasn’t him. Positive it was one of my kids, I pressed harder. “How can a container full of cupcakes disappear overnight?” I asked. All three kids looked at me with blank stares. “Someone did this.” I said. “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t dad, and you three are the only other people in the house. If nobody takes responsibility for this, all of you will get consequences!”
My interrogation complete, I left the room so the suspects could get their stories straight. I began tidying our family room, picking up throw pillows from the floor, and that’s when I saw it, the mangled plastic container that once held nineteen scrumptious creamsicle delights. Next to it sat our dog George, his face smeared with both orange frosting and with shame. George had climbed onto the counter during the night, stolen the container, and eaten everything. The mystery of the missing creamsicle cupcakes was solved. But I wrongfully accused my kids, and I had to admit that I had been wrong.
It’s hard to apologize to our kids because it can feel like admitting that we are wrong means our kids can now question everything we say, and anarchy is just around the corner. But apologizing can be a valuable tool for building relationships and setting an excellent example.
1. It Keeps The Burden of Responsibility On The Parent
Kids are very good at blaming themselves for everything because they have a limited understanding of the world and of complicated situations in life. They also have a very self-focused perspective. They often internalize negative feelings and take the blame for circumstances that aren’t their fault at all. These negative feelings can mar their identity and affect their self-esteem. When we apologize to our children after we do something wrong, we unburden them from feelings of guilt and shame. We reassure them that they aren’t responsible for our actions and free them from thoughts that may negatively affect how they view themselves.
2. It Models Humility and Accountability
We want to raise children that own up to their mistakes, apologize, and take responsibility. Children model what they see. If kids watch their parents humbling themselves and stepping into awkward situations where they have to admit their wrongs, kids are more likely to follow suit. Humility isn’t a simple skill to master; we all need practice. The more our children apologize, the more natural it will feel for them to be accountable for their actions, and they will be quick to respond with an attitude of humility as they grow up.
3. It Deepens Trust Between Child and Parent
Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to forgive someone when they never say they are sorry? Our feelings of resentment can become a tangled mess and make forgiveness seem impossible. We don’t want to create roadblocks that inhibit our children’s ability to forgive. Apologizing and acknowledging how we made them feel helps our kids to move towards forgiveness. Also, when we admit our wrongs and our children forgive us, we make it easier for them to accept forgiveness from us when they make big mistakes too.
The more we apologize, the more they learn to trust that even if we don’t see our mistakes immediately, when we do come to realize our wrongs, we will address those wrongs appropriately. As kids grow up, trusting a parent helps diffuse situations when or if communication breaks down, and kids feel misunderstood. Apologizing is the first step towards forgiveness and forgiveness is the first brick we lay on the road to re-building trust.
I admitted to jumping to conclusions, making accusations, and threatening to dole out punishments without merit. Then I asked my kids to please forgive me. They were gracious enough to let their remorseful mama off the hook. As for George, he faced some natural consequences in the form of severe intestinal upset. I don’t think he’ll be eating more cupcakes anytime soon, but just in case, all our treats are now safely stored in the pantry.