An apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift”– Margaret Lee Runbeck
As the band, Chicago sings, “It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.”
Admitting that we have done something wrong and modifying our behaviour accordingly so as to not repeat that wrongdoing is no easy task.
Even more so when, we, as adults, must step up and apologize to our kids.
Kids who imitate what we do and say.
If we neglect to apologize for any wrongdoing, continuing as if nothing we’ve done is wrong, we actually role-model to our kids not to take accountability and try to bring restoration to relationships.
I was recently interviewed on SAFM about the importance of parents apologizing to their kids.
It was most interesting listening to callers weigh in on this topic and contribute their parenting stories.
Here are the key points we discussed:
1. Merely saying “I’m sorry” is not an apology
There’s a big difference between saying sorry as a platitude and saying it like you really mean it and are doing it to bring restoration to the relationship.
An apology comes from the heart — it is a sincere acknowledgment of wrongdoing on your part, and it corresponds with a change in behaviour.
As renowned play therapist and father of client-centred-play-therapy, Dr Garry Landreth says, “It’s not what you do, it’s what you do after you’ve done it.”
2. Not making a habit out of apologizing and repeating the same wrongdoing
When you make a habit out of apologizing and repeating the same wrongdoing multiple times, you run the risk of your kids not taking those apologies seriously.
They will see those apologies as mere platitudes, not something that is done sincerely with the intention of modifying the inappropriate behaviour.
3. How to enter into the “apology conversation” using the acronym AIRR
Paul Nyamuda, my co-presenter on the television series Saving Our Marriage, has a beautiful way of entering into what he calls “the apology conversation.”
He breaks it down into 4 simple steps that can be remembered by the acronym AIRR.
For example, if you had a long, hard day at work and yell at your kids when you get home, you can use AIRR to apologize to them:
- Acknowledge: “Children, I acknowledge that when I walked into the house and yelled at you when you were looking forward to seeing me, it wasn’t nice.”
- Impact: “I realize that the impact of me shouting at you is that you feel I’m not happy to see you.” But, I am happy to see you when I get home from work.
- Remorse: “I apologize for my behaviour.”
- Restitution: “In the future, before I walk into the house after work, I will check myself to make sure I am in a better mindset.”
4. Introducing consequences to a child that apologizes but repeats the wrongdoing
When your child apologizes, ask him what exactly he is sorry about, so you can ascertain whether he is really owning up to his mistake.
If, for example, your fifteen-year-old was caught smoking again, and he keeps apologizing, ask him, “What are you really sorry about?”
If he says, “I’m sorry that I smoked,” ask him, “Why are you sorry that you smoked?”
Use this question to show your child what specifically about his behaviour is inappropriate, wrong, or negative (i.e.: smoking can damage one’s lungs).
However, if your child still continues with this behaviour, you can take it a step further and introduce consequences: “I know you have communicated many times that you are sorry for smoking, but we have communicated to you that we do not tolerate smoking at this age. If you choose to smoke, you choose not to use your cell phone for a period of time.” Parents to decide the period of time.
5. Being receptive to learning new ways of parenting your kids
It’s important to get out of our comfort zones and keep learning new ways to become better parents.
This does not mean that our parents, who perhaps didn’t apologize to us as kids, were parenting the “wrong way.”
Not at all. They did their best with whatever knowledge and awareness they had.
So, with this knowledge, what do YOU think about apologizing to kids?
Do you think it’s a powerful way to bring restoration to relationships?
If you are interested in learning more about:
1. How to apologize without exasperating your kids,
2. When to apologize to your kids,
3. How to teach your kids about apologizing when the circumstances call for it,
then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a WhatsApp.
We can have a chat about laying down the action steps you can take to ensure that the relationship between you and your kids flourishes.
I will also appreciate hearing from you about times you have apologized to your kids and the impact on your relationship with your kids.
From my heart to yours,