Do you know someone who can’t apologize? I think everyone knows at least one person who can’t be wrong. I hate to admit it but I was that one person once upon a time. If someone called me out on something I either denied it, justified it or twisted things around to make them wrong.
I am shaking my head at myself right now. That is not a good characteristic at all, which is why I stopped doing it (at least consciously).
What made this possible was that I learned to separate my actions from my character. Meaning, I realized I am not my mistakes. I actually got so comfortable admitting when I was wrong I began to enjoy it. The saying “the truth sets you free” is spot on, and that’s a good thing because everyone makes mistakes and that doesn’t change when you become a parent.
Sometimes you say the wrong thing to your kid, embarrass them in front of their friends or falsely accuse them of eating the turkey sub you were saving (when it was really your husband who ate it). We all want to appear perfect in our children’s eyes but the truth is we are not perfect. At some point our kids are going to realize we’re not a God but a human being, and once they do why not allow them to piggyback on that humanness?
Kids need to hear us say “I made a mistake, I was wrong, I am sorry.”
It’s one of the first things we teach them after all, and unless you live under a rock, you know the best way to teach is by example. My mom wasn’t big on apologizing but when she did it felt like a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. It never occurred to me to think she was “less than” for admitting she was wrong. Exposing herself like that let me know she respected me and that I mattered to her, and I felt loved.
If your kids aren’t used to being apologized to, it may throw them off a bit when you do it for the first time. They may not react as graciously as you’d like them to. But once they realize how sincere you are they’ll catch on just fine. They’ll accept your apology and know that it came after personal reflection, and they’ll learn how to do the same when they screw up.
The difference between kids and adults is that kids are still in touch with that innate ability we all have to forgive, so they don’t hold grudges like many adults do.
Think about it, how many times have you locked yourself in a torture chamber with the key still in your hand? Meaning, how many times have you refused to forgive someone long after they’ve offered an apology?
Kids don’t do that, but if we continuously hurt them without atonement we are training them to hold a grudge. We are training them to hold on to pain. We are teaching them self-destructive behavior.
When you apologize to your kids you’re showing them what freedom feels like by giving them the opportunity to let go. But the teacher always learns as much or more than the student, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself wanting to use that key you’ve been holding on to.