Why I Apologize to My Kids

It’s no secret we all mess up as parents. And I’m not even talking about those obvious things, like when you bump your kid’s head on the door frame of the car while trying to get her in her car seat or pinch a finger in a drawer. (Oh, just me and my husband?) No, for some reason, those things are easy to apologize for – a quick, ‘Oh goodness, I’m so sorry!’ comes out without a second thought.

I’m talking more about those times when you snap at your three year old because she’s asked 458 questions in the last 20 minutes and that 459th one just put you over the edge. Or when stress, anxiety, exhaustion, or a mix of all of those cause you to about lose your mind when you hear a bucket of toys being dumped out or find shoes have been ripped off in the car AGAIN. They’re not huge awful things, but you still react in a way that startles, disappoints, or hurts the feelings of your child. And then you’re left sitting there crying with your daughter because you don’t understand WHY you couldn’t have just kept your patience a little longer? Yes, those are the times I’m talking about. And those are the times that I’ve decided to be diligent about apologizing for. So, why?

{Photo credit T.Marie Photography}

First, I apologize because I’m truly sorry. I’m also usually ashamed and embarrassed, but I’m sorry. There have been countless times when I’ve yelled or lost my patience over, when it comes down to it, silly things. Once I can calm myself down and take my own emotions out of it, I realize how unimportant the thing that set me off was, and I try to go to my child right away and communicate that – I apologize for treating her the way I did and for overreacting, something I’m continually trying to teach my (maybe slightly dramatic) daughter.

That leads me to another reason – I apologize because it’s a behavior I want to model for my kids. I pray that they’re quick to see when they’re wrong, quick to apologize, and quick to forgive. I never want my child to think that there’s an age, position of authority, or relationship dynamic that makes them ‘above’ apologizing when they do something wrong. We could all learn to give grace more freely, and there’s no better way to teach that than to have my kids realize how much we all need grace and forgiveness ourselves.

Lastly, I apologize because it’s important to me that I don’t make excuses for myself and teach my kids to take ownership of their mistakes, too. Yes, I’ve struggled with some postpartum anxiety that most often manifests itself through anger or my short temper, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse for treating my kids poorly. I know they’re too young now to understand mental health issues, but I do want them to look back on their childhood and remember that although I messed up regularly, I asked for their forgiveness and continually tried to do better. 

I won’t pretend humbling myself and asking for forgiveness from a 3 and a half year old (who pushed all of my buttons) is fun or easy. I do, however, realize how important it is for both of us, and will keep striving to make it second nature. And thankfully (or something?) I mess up plenty in parenting, so I’ve got plenty of opportunities to practice.  

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