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  • The Right Way to Say 'I'm Sorry' to your Children

    When done right, apologizing to your children can reap positive results that cascade to their adult lives
    by May de Jesus-Palacpac .
  • mom and child talking

    Photo from drkateroberts.com

    Do you apologize to your children? Many parents nowadays say they do and will tell you that doing so have positive effects in their relationship with their kids.

    Leah Opinaldo-Cantos, mother of three, admits she feels humbled every time she says sorry to her
    daughters, but believes it affects them in a good way.

    “They know they matter, they are not just kids, their feelings are valid, that mom and dad aren’t always right,” she says.

    Mom Charity Faith Oyordo shares that her five year old has learned to say sorry to others because they do the same to her.

    Mom Pia Salem-Lopez agrees with the other moms and says that it has strengthened her relationship with her son. “Me and Ethan are so close!”

    How parenting has evolved
    Back in the days, the thought of parents owning up to their mistakes and apologizing to their children was considered unconventional and somewhat radical, especially in our culture that places a lot of importance on the authority of parents over their children.

    But in the past few years, many other schools of thought apart from the traditional way of raising children have been introduced.  

    The dynamics of parenting have shifted from being parent-driven to being more child-centered, and modern families have become more open to adapting different parenting styles.

    The values gained
    Psychologist and Brown university professor Kate Roberts, Ph. D., says in an article in Psychology Today that parents who know how to apologize to their children impart to them valuable lessons in life, such as humility, self acceptance and self esteem.

    She discussed in her article that hearing their parents admit their shortcomings and make amends for them shows them that adults sometimes make mistakes and fail even when they are being responsible, and that this is okay.  


    Blurred lines and boundaries
    However, Psychology master, preschool director for Victory Fort Kids Ministry, and former guidance counselor Geraldine Bautista cautions parents not to be too quick in apologizing to their children, adding that while modern parenting approaches work, they only do if parents have the wisdom to find the right balance and apply them in the right context.

    Bautista cites a few examples on when not to apologize to your children: Do not apologize for things that your children are expected to do, such as making their beds or waking up early for school, or when they have to stay up late to finish homework they procrastinated on.
    Don't apologize either when you impose your position to your children.

    According to Bautista, many parents today work eight hours a day and cannot attend to their children as much as they want to, that they feel the need to compensate to them, thus, becoming overly relational.

    A classic example of this are parents who become their children’s “best friends”.

    Children who see their parents as their best friends often tend to undermine their God-mandated authority in their lives, making it difficult for parents to set boundaries for their children.

    Bautista stresses that boundaries provide security. They allow parents to call out their children when they need correction. They are able to set their children towards the right direction because their kids do not see them as their equal, but as people whose views toward matters are worth considering.

    The right way to do it
    Rules can simplify situations and help define what is right and wrong to a child. A parent herself, Bautista advises parents to provide simple and age-appropriate rules to your children. Make sure that the boundaries are not only clear to your children, but also between you and your spouse; otherwise, you may only confuse them.

    Homeschooling mom Mia Zulueta feels that it is important for children to be reminded to cooperate and consider the welfare of their parents. “No apologies when they get scolding because they refused to obey.”

    Bautista agrees to this and stresses that it’s good for parents to say sorry to their children for saying or doing things out of arrogance or pride, or out of not thinking rationally about a particular situation, but not in a place where they feel that their children are inconvenienced.

    For instance, some parents apologize to their children when they are unable to eat out as much as they want to, or when they have to take public transportation to bring them to their extracurricular activities.

    Children need to understand that not all things in life come easy and understand the value of hard work and sacrifice.

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    Proper foundations bring healing
    When done right, apologizing to your children can reap positive results that cascade to their adult lives. They become more confident in making decisions in their professions and even in their relationships. They learn to articulate their views and are able to stand for what they believe in.

    It can also bring healing.

    Young groom Edrei Canda honored his dad and mom at his wedding and encouraged the parents among his guests to consider saying sorry to their children when they are wrong. “Many of my hurts have been healed because my parents did not hesitate to apologize to us when we were growing up,” he reveals.

    At the end of the day, it still boils down to the quality of relationship you build with your children. Having a good relationship based on proper foundations will allow you to speak to their hearts and raise your children the way you intend for them to be.

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