I grew up under the whole “Might is Right” ideology. Dad was the head of the household, and he was the decision-maker. There was no room for open and honest discussion. Corporal punishment was the discipline of choice. I never heard my father apologize . . . EVER! To him, apologizing to his kids meant undermining his own authority. I can’t remember how that idea was conveyed, but it was a common theme within the families I grew up around.
I am not sure why I did not follow suit. Maybe out of spite, as a means of parenting the complete opposite way that my Dad had. I am glad that early in my son’s life, I decided to be humble enough to apologize to him. I learned quickly that apologizing did not undermine my authority with my son. What it did was give him the opportunity to learn how to forgive. It taught me to be humble and set the stage for having open and honest communication within our family.
There is another important step for apologizing that I regretfully didn’t learn until after my son was grown. Here it is: Ask your child how you can make it better with them. Yep! I know; it brings up some strong emotions. Honestly, even if I had known the step, I don’t think I would have had the maturity to humble myself enough to follow through.
Depending on how you were brought up, the idea of apologizing to your children can be an internal battleground. Let apologizing win! It will bring richness to your relationship because apologizing helps build safety. My son and I have a rich relationship because we have learned to apologize to each other well. We feel safe with each other and can share our failures and discuss how to make them better and do better. I have watched my son be forgiving and ask for forgiveness with his friends. Those friendships are the ones that have lasted.
While you sit in the emotions that the idea of apologizing stirs up, consider what a gift it will be to your children when you help them apologize well.
In the area of apologies, you’re about to start winning!