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Parents are also human beings, and human beings do make mistakes. The important thing is to acknowledge that we’ve made a mistake and apologize to the hurt person, even if it’s our kids! While this can be tricky, we’ve got some tips for effectively apologizing to the kids without relinquishing your authority.
For anyone, admitting that you’ve made a mistake and seeking an apology from the aggrieved party isn’t easy. We like to think that we’re right and apologizing makes us vulnerable; we feel like we’re giving another person power over us. But apologizing has its advantages: it breaks down our ego, builds humility and strengthens relationships. Kids are often at the receiving end of our fears and frustrations, but seldom do we realize that we’ve hurt them, much less apologize.
Apologizing to our kids has added benefits:
- We teach them that no one is too ‘big’ to apologize
- We set an example about the right way to say sorry
- We show them that their feelings are important and deserve respect
Some might argue that we are living in a child-centric world, where we praise our children for the smallest achievement and apologize for the most insignificant slight. Others say that kids don’t need apologies, least of all from their parents who should always have the upper hand. Toeing the fine line between these extremes can be difficult, so check out our tips for apologizing to kids effectively, while maintaining control.
1. Be specific
Mention the specific incident which you are apologizing for. Don’t make general statements like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m such a bad mother’. Not only are these degrading, but your child won’t understand what you’re apologizing for. Say that you are sorry for yelling at her when you were on the phone with grandma.
2. Acknowledge her feelings
Your child needs to know that you understand how she feels. Say, “I know you’re feeling sad because I yelled at you” or “I know you’re upset because of the way I talked earlier”. This way, her feelings are acknowledged, and she also learns to describe them in words.
3. Explain rationally
Kids are great at understanding logic, so be sure to explain the situation rationally to them. Say, “I can’t talk to grandma and listen to you at the same time, so you’ll have to wait till I’ve finished.” An explanation like this helps them understand your reaction too.
4. Stay in control
While apologizing, make sure you’re not setting yourself up for manipulation later. Kids are experts at recognizing when a parent is feeling guilty and making the most of it. So apologize for the specific incident, explain the reason behind it and say that you’ll try to do better. Anything more is overkill.
5. Don’t overdo it
Apologizing to kids has to be short and sincere; it doesn’t have to be a show. Don’t grovel or let the tears flow; it is both distressing and embarrassing for your kids. It also sets a very bad example for the future; they’ll start doing the same to you!
6. Make it a learning experience
This is a great time for teaching appropriate behavior. Ask your kids- what would be the right thing for me to do if it happens again? It gives them a chance to think about the other side of things as well.
Most importantly, don’t get drawn into a guilt trap. You’ve made a mistake; all parents do. Don’t dwell on it and beat yourself up; use our handy tips for apologizing to the kids and move on.