Why You Should Apologize to Your Kids

by Lisa Miller

Because you're human and you're wrong sometimes.

Let's face it, as parents/guardians, we can be stressed out and impatient. Sometimes we behave badly. Sometimes we take our stress out on our kids. Sometimes we do or say things in the heat of the moment that our best selves wouldn't do or say.

When we acknowledge our poor behavior with an apology, our children will grow to respect us. Grown-ups apologize. Grown-ups are fallible. An apology shows you are grown-up and fallible. More importantly, an apology models for your kids what it looks like to take responsibility for your actions. Think about that for a moment. Isn't that one of the main things we hope to teach them?

You might even use the apology to promote peace in your relationship. A heartfelt apology can diffuse a lot of situations. Sometimes an apology is not an admission of guilt, but a statement of regret that you're not getting along. Sometimes it's more important to get along than it is to be right.

Further, a well-crafted apology also serves to help the receiver feel heard and validated. This is what all humans crave.

Food for thought: How good are you at apologizing? How often do you do it? What would your kids say about your ability to admit when you're wrong? Do you expect your kids to do something you yourself struggle to do?

Not super comfortable yet with the apology? Here's some phraseology I rely on regularly:

I'm sorry I… (check all that apply)

  • was unkind

  • was impatient

  • assumed/jumped to conclusions

  • didn't listen

  • acted like a crazy lady

Now that I've had a minute to think about it, I wish that I would have… (check all that apply)

  • been more kind

  • been more patient

  • asked more questions

  • listened better

  • been my best self

I realize I hurt you, and that is definitely not my intention. I hope you can forgive me. Next time, I will try to press pause and think about my reaction before I say or do something hurtful. Your feelings matter to me. You matter to me. I'm really sorry.

It starts with you. Your kids will have a much easier time mastering this skill if it's modeled for them at home. The next time you do something wrong, or that you regret, try a heartfelt apology. See what happens!