I totally screwed up the other day! It had been a long week, a long day at work, and when I arrived home things were a bit chaotic. I lost my temper, and snapped at my oldest son. My tone of voice was angry, the words were shorter than normal, and I am sure my facial expression was scary. I cannot recall what pushed me over the edge, but I can see the look on his face.
I now see that my angry response triggered an angry response in him, which only made the whole situation worse. As I have reflected on my anger over the last few days I am reminded of something I once heard a speaker say. He said that the most important thing he ever did as a parent was to apologize when he messed up. I have tried to keep this advice in my mind specifically for times like these.
A couple of times in my experience as a parent I have apologized to my children and seen the immediate calming, and healing effects of the words, “I am sorry.” Another time that sticks out to me is a situation in which I jumped to conclusions about my son’s actions. I walked into the house thinking I knew exactly what happened and began handing out consequences before getting the facts. As the injustices of my uninformed decisions mounted I could sense my son puffing up with defensiveness and frustration. His reactions got larger and the tears began to roll.
As I came to my senses and began to learn more about the situation I realized my mistake. I had misunderstood, over-reacted, and been wrong. Due to the wise words of the previously mentioned speaker, I realized my mistake, apologized to my son and immediately saw him deflate. He calmed down, relaxed, and opened up to me about what had happened. He could put down his defenses, as he was no longer being attacked.
Apologizing when we make mistakes disarms a situation; it demonstrates humility, strength, and honesty. If we as parents are willing to apologize our children will be more willing to apologize as well. “I’m sorry” is a crucial message to send to your children. It allows them to understand that you are not perfect, you are doing your best but make mistakes. Saying I’m sorry also gives them permission to make mistakes. They will learn to handle their own mistakes by following your model.
What is your experience with apologizing to your children?