One thing we definitely expect of our children is to own up to their mistakes and apologize when they have done something wrong. We may even make them say it over again until we feel like they actually mean it. But, how often do we as caregivers apologize and admit our own mistakes to them?
I quickly figured out that saying I’m sorry was something I wanted to focus on as a dad with my kids because I make mistakes…often! I’m a flawed person and it has taken me a while to learn how to truly make amends with someone when I’ve wronged them. An apology doesn’t have as great an effect if you only apologize because you got caught or you say “I’m sorry you feel that way”. With my kids from a young age I wanted to teach them to own up to their mistakes when they realized them and give a simple and heartfelt apology. “I’m sorry, I messed up. How can I fix it?” is an apology that I encourage with them as it takes full responsibility and offers that they are trying to solve the problem they caused.
I’ve noticed that when I apologize to my kids they are extremely quick to forgive and seem to have more respect for me. They also see that I’m human and that I make mistakes too, and that hopefully helps them feel less pressure to try and be perfect. It doesn’t let them off the hook so that they can just go and make as many mistakes as they want, but it helps them know that mistakes do happen, and when they do the most important thing is that they respond in a way that is genuine and do everything in their power to not make the same mistake again.
I’ve also noticed that this can really help restore our emotional bond. If my apology is because of yelling unnecessarily or having too high of a standard, I’ve hurt their feelings or made them feel inferior. After I apologize it allows us to reconnect and move on from a tense situation. So I urge you the next time you ask your child to apologize for their mistake…think about the last time you apologized to them as well and make sure to model what you want them to do when it’s time to own up to a mistake.
For more articles from this author, check out his blog at This is Fatherhood!