Parents and Apologies

It is a special strength of a self-confident parent to admit mistakes, and the acknowledgment of occasional shortcomings affirms our humanity to our children. Genuinely admitting our lack of perfection allows our children to understand that the standard for proper behavior is not error-free living, but rather learning to live responsibly in community with others. Many people will use the term “sorry” loosely; but when you are wrong or have wronged another, genuinely saying “I’m sorry” is hard work. Parents are the most important role models for their children. Consequently, admitting mistakes and apologizing are behaviors that need to be modeled.

We are not perfect!!! It is OK to be human. We were not meant to be perfect; and if we appear to be perfect to our children, we instill in them a tremendous pressure to strive for an unreasonable and impossible standard. Alternatively, when we insist that we are right, and our children know that we are not, we lose trust and respect. Apologizing for mistakes teaches our children to accept responsibility for their behaviors and to seek reconciliation. Power struggles within families can often be defused with a genuine apology.

When apologizing to your children:
Be genuine. The most important thing about apologies is the genuineness by which they are given.
Don’t use apologies to make your point. “I was wrong, BUT
Connect emotionally. Apologies give us the opportunity to connect with the other person on an emotional level and therefore must be given in the right context. If you are feeling angry or hurt, wait until you can be tuned into your kids and open to their feelings.
Communicate your words in an appropriate manner. The words used are not as important as the way in which they are stated. The words themselves can be as simple as “I’m sorry, I was wrong”. I tell my kids that I am not a perfect parent; nevertheless I am the parent God chose for them, and I will try to do my best for them.
Value the relationship. It is part of our relationship as family to admit our wrongs, just as we celebrate with each other our gifts and successes.

Remember that our forgiveness in response to our child’s apology, the other side of this “coin”, is an equally important behavior to model to our children.

By Ellen D. Begley, RN, NCC, LPC for – Ellen is a registered nurse as well as a licensed and national board certified counselor. She has a private practice that serves children ages 2 to 18 and has over 18 years of experience counseling children and educating parents.