What is it?
We all do things that hurt our kids. Some are avoidable, some aren’t. We are late to pick up, we forget to buy that notebook we promised, we shrink a favorite skirt by putting it in the dryer. (We also blow up: read The Repair for that.) Thankfully, apologizing is always an option.
Why, you ask? We all make mistakes: if you are upset with how you treated your child, you will feel better owning that and telling them you are sorry. They will feel better: less guilt and, even more importantly, less shame. And, your child will feel better about you (yes, true).
Finally, kids arguably learn more from what you model than what you teach: worded correctly, you are teaching them that being reflective and accountable is a good thing, which helps with all relationships, from friends to the ‘real’ world.
It’s quite possible that I did more apologizing than I did parenting!
How to Address It?
There are lots of ways. Today's tip is not to use the apology as an excuse. Rather, honestly explain how the situation occurred and that you didn’t intentionally hurt their feelings. If you’ve yelled simply because of your own stress, explain that and say you’ll try harder.
Your Script in Action
Situation: You’re late to pick up your child (this was always me)
Excuse: “I’m so sorry, the traffic was awful,” or “I’m sorry, my call went longer than I thought.”
Honest Assessment Part I: “I’m late because I didn’t plan well. I am very sorry. I know it's upsetting when I am late."
Honest Assessment Part II: (non-defensively) “Let’s think of some ways I can help myself not be late.” That’s the 'I’ll try harder' bit.
Situation: Your child’s toy was on the floor. You were looking at your phone, and you inadvertently stepped on it and broke it.
Excuse: I am sorry I broke your toy but you shouldn't leave them on the floor!
Honest Assessment: “I am sorry I broke your toy - I was looking at my phone didn’t even see it, and I know that’s a favorite toy.” (You are sorry and later you can 'teach' ways to avoid broken toys by picking them up.)
Caveat: You don’t apologize for setting appropriate limits.
GOT A MINUTE?
Be aware: try to catch yourself using an apology as an excuse, and simply be honest instead. Just try Part I for now. Distraction would be an easy one, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry; I wasn’t paying attention. Could you tell me that again?” Starting small will help to build a habit.
You don't have to do it alone. I've been there, and I can help. Reply to this email or call for a free consult - let's see if we're a fit.
Mary Smith Parent Coach is passionate about sharing practical, powerful habits that take one minute with parents to simply and quickly sow the roots of connection and engagement with their children while creating calm in the household.
I've Been There! Sincerely, Mary