Children Deserve The Same Respect We Offer Adults, And That Includes Apologizing

by Mary Katherine
PeopleImages / iStock

We were at a standoff, my husband and I.

It was our anniversary, and I don’t remember what we were fighting about. But it had been a doozy, and feelings were hurt. Coffee mugs in hand, we sat across from one another at the kitchen table. We both felt horrible. We were ready to apologize. But who was gonna speak first?

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking my hand. You could see a weight lift from his shoulders.

“I’m sorry too.” I responded, feeling petty that I had held out for him to apologize first.

With two powerful words, we cleaned up the mess and moved on about the day, feeling much better than we had the night before.

That evening, per our yearly tradition, my husband and I watched the video of our rehearsal dinner. We smiled as my late grandfather stood up for his toast and announced that he was about to “share the secret to a long, happy marriage.” Everyone in the room prepared for a moment of eloquent wisdom, only for Grandpa to press the microphone against his lips and blurt out two words:

“Sorry, honey!”

Our families roared with laughter and all of the married couples exchanged knowing glances. The joke always works because it’s true: There isn’t a relationship in the world that can thrive without sincere apologies.

Eleven years later, I am here to testify: that nugget of truth my grandfather imparted? It is even more valuable now that I am a mother. Because the same woman who shows her stubborn butt in marital arguments brings all of that same mess to the table as a parent. Hard as I try, I will never be perfect — not as a wife, and not as a mom.

I went into parenting with good intentions. I wanted so badly to be that Mary Poppins standard-bearer of Zen-like patience. But alas, when one toddler is screaming that you are the “the worst mudder in da world!” and the other is streaking through the kitchen, dropping little turdlets as she goes…well, it’s easy to find your wit’s end.

Add sleep deprivation to the mix, and let’s just say this: Mama makes mistakes. Lots of them.

And even though my children behave more like banshees than actual people, they still technically qualify as human, which means, as humans, I owe them the same respect and kindness offered in any other relationship. Because the the thing is, respect isn’t something a person should age into. Everyone deserves it.

Even our little booger eaters.

You’d think this would come as a no-brainer, but some adults, especially in older generations, seem to view apologies as weakness. They refuse to say sorry to children for fear that it might undermine their authority. As if it’s possible to lose respect for someone who admits when they were wrong. Quite the opposite.

Can I ask you a question? When has an apology ever made you respect someone less?

The day my husband reached his hand across the kitchen table and apologized for our cross words, I don’t think I’ve ever respected him more. Being human means screwing up. And since that fact is unavoidable, the best thing a parent can do is model how to recover from those mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry” shows strength of character, not weakness. Being humble gains respect, not the contrary.

Parents, I’d like take a page out of Grandpa’s playbook and offer a little wisdom. Would you like the secret to a long and meaningful relationship with your children? Of course you would. *grabs mic*

Say you’re sorry.

Our children deserve the same respect we offer adults in our lives, and that includes apologizing. The only way we can teach them kindness is to show them kindness.