I have a terrific character flaw—a short temper. Combine that with the fact that I am a perfectionist trying my best not to be but frequently backsliding, and I often find myself in the position of being uncomfortably wrong.
I have lost count of the number of times I have had to apologize to my kids for a tantrum of mine that would rival their own on their worst days as terrible twos. They are older now—tweens and teens—and our lives are hectic and oftentimes very stressful. This has led to more yelling than I care to admit, but will to make my point here.
I was raised in a family of yellers, but never once do I remember hearing an apology from my parents. As a kid, I always felt less than, smaller somehow, because of it. As a result, I went into my own parenting journey feeling as though my word was law, and anything else was wrong. It took me a long time, along with seeing my own childhood feelings reflected in the eyes of my children, to realize that what they needed, for more than one reason, was to hear me say I was sorry.
I realize there are two sides to the discussion of whether or not we should apologize to our kids, and I have to say in my opinion, yes, we should. My reasoning comes from a few core beliefs:
Apologizing teaches children how to say they are sorry. When our kids say or do something wrong to another person, we are quick to tell them, “You need to say you’re sorry.” I believe that children learn not only by being told, but by what they see us as parents do. When a word or action toward my kids is wrong, I need to say I’m wrong and apologize. In their minds, seeing and hearing me say I’m sorry shows them when, why and how it’s done. This firsthand experience has a much more solid impact.
Apologizing shows respect for your children. Kids are not just kids. They are people, too. If I wrong an adult, I have enough respect for that person to say I’m sorry. If I act out toward my children in moments of stress and don’t apologize, I am sending a message to them that I don’t hold them worthy of my apology. There will never be a day when I want my kids to think I don’t look at them with respect.
Apologizing helps us remain humble and teachable. I am thrilled to find that I am in a constant state of learning. I am not flawless, and I learn something new just about every day I’m alive. Many times, these lessons come via my parenting. I look at the opportunity to apologize to my kids for my inconsistent or inappropriate actions as another lesson learned, and if there’s one thing I hope to always remain, it is teachable.
Apologizing shows children that parents are not always right. Like them, we are human. We make mistakes and are not always going to do or say the right thing. I like to think that one lesson I am teaching my children is that parenting is not perfect. I want them to know that the person they love the most in the world is capable of doing wrong and then making it right.
I am sure I will continue to make mistakes, as a person and as a parent. The key is to remember, no matter who it is, to apologize when I should. It is simply the right thing to do.