“I always apologise to my kids.” A friend of mine was recounting a story about her daughter and a pair of new boots.
She told me: ““Yup!” I told my daughter. “I am sorry I shouted, but if you’d just listened to me and not worn your brand-new boots to the park then I wouldn’t have shouted at you.””
Wait a second. If you think about it, was that even an apology?
How NOT to apologise to your child.
“BUT!” It’s such an itty-bitty word.
We might not pay much attention to it but, (see what I did there?) it causes so many problems in our communication and not just when we try to apologise.
Have you heard any of the following??
- “I’m sorry you feel sad, but __________”
- “I’m sorry you don’t want to, but _________”
- “I’m sorry I upset you, but _________”
Not on your nelly, that’s not being sorry.
Whatever the situation, when you add the word BUT, it says “I’m saying sorry because I feel I have to”, or “I’m trying to teach you manners, BUT I’m not really sorry and here is why!”
The word “but” negates the apology.
My friend actually blamed her daughter for her outburst and didn’t take accountability for her own actions at all.
Just saying! If there is a BUT then you’re not sorry.
The only effective way to apologise is to just apologise and stop talking before you get to the word BUT. Because as soon as you mutter the word BUT, your child, or any other human for that matter, knows you’re cancelling out what you’ve just said – even without you saying another word.
So why can it be so hard to say sorry to our own children?
For some parents, they think an apology will diminish their child’s respect for them. They think the parent is always supposed to be ‘right’.
But think about it, who likes a Know-it-all? It reminds me of the character Know-it-all Nick from Dirty Bertie, the books my kids used to read.
Someone who thinks they’re always ‘right’ and never apologies, they’re not well respected are they?
Or maybe, we were made to ‘say sorry’ as a child so in adulthood the feelings of shame overwhelm us. I’m a big fan of not making our children say sorry, as there are so many more productive ways to teach our children to feel remorse.
But more importantly, what does a child learn about apologising when their parents refuse to? Instead of the learnings we want them to have, they are more likely to take away:
- It’s OK not to acknowledge your mistakes or try and repair your relationship.
- Apologising means you’ve done something bad or are bad (the root of shame).
- You lose face when you apologise.
I’m wondering if you have a know-it-all Nick in your life and how it feels to never hear a heart felt sorry?
So, what’s the best way to apologise to your child?
Here are three things to consider when apologising to your child.
1. Admit your mistake.
Don’t say: “If I upset you, I’m sorry but…,” or “I’m sorry but if you’d have just listened and did as you were told the first time, I wouldn’t have shouted at you.”
A better way sounds like this: “I am so sorry I was angry; I lost my temper. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I will do better next time.”
You can see how the first sentence blames the child and the second one admits your own acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
A helpful apology is one that owns the wrongdoing, and endeavours to make changes.
2. Don’t blame or shame your child.
Even though your child may drive you up the wall, don’t put the blame on him. Likewise, don’t shame him with thoughtless words like “If you weren’t so annoying, I wouldn’t have to shout at you all the time.”
Language of Listening® gives you a wonderful framework to move away from blame, shame and criticism to unconditional love and acceptance and at the same time getting the behaviour you want from your child. Sign up here for your Free eCourse ‘How to get your kids to listen.”
3.Don’t think of apologising as winning or losing.
Saying sorry meaningfully means everyone wins. Remember you’re on the same team, this isn’t about keeping score, this is about your relationship. No matter what, you should work together as a team.
Ultimately, making mistakes and learning from them is what gives children confidence and resiliency to try their best, push themselves to learn and grow. It’s all about learning from our mistakes, repairing our relationships and moving on.
How about you? How do apologies go in your family?