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Should We Apologize To Our Children?
An apology is a sign of strength, not weakness. Sometimes we may believe that if we apologize to our children we weaken ourselves and the rules we are trying to keep. We may also believe it will make our children think their behavior was okay. It is important to understand that this is not the case. I have found myself at times reacting negatively to my daughter's occasional inattention to her daily diabetes care. Not just negatively but loudly. What I discovered was that I could apologize for how I responded to her behavior, without condoning what she did. (Or didn't do) Apologizing in this manner makes it clear that I am not relaxing the rules. It does not undermine my authority or my ability to make the rules and expect compliance. I found it does set a good example and encourages her to be open and apologize when she has done wrong. Apologizing shows empathy for what I may have done to her feelings and respect for her right to be treated fairly.
Apologizing shows that you can admit error without loss of face. It shows that your self-esteem is strong enough to be left intact. It teaches your child to take responsibility and shows them that everyone makes mistakes. And finally it will prove to your child that you both can survive mistakes.
Showing that we have the strength to admit to and survive mistakes helps to encourage our children to have the same strength in their dealings with others. It's important to demonstrate that a relationship can survive errors. Our children need to know that it's possible to make amends and give another person the option to do the same in return. Apologizing lets a person both give and experience forgiveness. If our children grow up with the experience of apology and forgiveness within the family, they will be far better equipped to deal with the relationships they will develop as they grow up. There are few life skills we will ever teach our children that are more important than this.
Different Ways of Apologizing We can apologize by saying it in words, by doing something for our child, or buying something for our child. Don't start yelling at your computer screen, I'll explain the buying part in a minute.
Some of the words we can use:
"I'm sorry I got back later than I said I would."
"I feel awful that I shouted at you this morning."
"It was silly to get so upset about your messy room."
Doing something special with our children can be more powerful than just saying we're sorry. It shows that we really mean it.
Giving our time and attention to our children almost always means more to them than buying them something, but little surprises given along with a verbal apology shows we have given thought to what happened.
When Not to Apologize
There are some dangers in apologizing too much. The problem is not with the apology but with the reason for the frequency. When we find ourselves apologizing too much we might be showing our children our own uncertainty. Our children rely on our certainty about life. They rely on us for guidance. Instead of apologizing if we aren't sure whether we have done the right thing, it might be a good idea to feel sorry but say nothing. We need to use our own judgment to decide how much is too much.
What Happens When We Don't Apologize?
We all remember at some point in our lives when someone was clearly wrong and did not apologize for their behavior. It caused a lot of resentment when we felt we were unfairly treated. Our children have an acute sense of fairness. Resentment grows and eats away at good feelings and a barrier grows between our children and ourselves. We must not allow this. Remember this about apologies; if you want to hear them, you need to give them. Apologies make you feel better about yourself. They are a statement of honesty and wipe the slate clean. And finally, it they are given, make sure you accept them.
Russell Turner is the father of a 10 year old diabetic daughter. After she was diagnosed he soon discovered he could find all sorts of medical information on the internet. What he couldn't find was how to prepare his child and family for living with this disease. He started his own website for parents of newly diagnosed diabetic children http://www.mychildhasdiabetes.com
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