One Piece of [Simple] but Game-Changing Parenting Advice
I’m going to share with you one of my favorite pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever picked up in my nearly 10 years of parenting. I know, I know, I don’t have tons of years of parenting under my belt. But I did hear that if you add your kids ages together then that’s the years of parenting experience you have. My daughter will be 10 in a few weeks and my son is 8 so technically that puts me at a nice, seasoned 18 years. There, that sounds a little more impressive.
I’ll cut to the chase:
Yup, that’s it. APOLOGIZE TO YOUR KIDS. Sounds simple. Sounds easy. You might think, “I’m the parent, why would I have to apologize?” Well, it IS simple. Not always easy. And let’s all take a nice big humble pill and hear me out.
I started apologizing to my kids when they were pretty young: 1, maybe 2 years old. It started because there were too many nights I was sitting on the couch talking to my husband full of shame and regret about losing my temper with the kids. Mark wasn’t around the kids all day. He went to work and had adult conversation. He got to go to the bathroom by himself and no one was hanging onto him all day. (He’s happy about that 1st one, but probably would have liked a little more touching honestly.) HE never lost his temper. HE never raised his voice unnecessarily or made snippy and sarcastic comments to our 18 month old. But me. That was a different story. I got annoyed. I snapped. I grunted in frustration. I yelled. Then I sat on the couch after they *finally* went to sleep and had myself a little pity-party of how terrible of a mom I was and I should be doing better.
Well how often does shaming ourselves really work into making any real, lasting change? And since when does beating ourselves up for our imperfections make us perfect? They don’t. I kept trying to be the perfect parent but inevitability I always messed up. Then, one day it’s like a light was turned on. I honestly don’t remember if I heard it from someone else or read it somewhere or if it was just a wonderful, divine idea dropped into my mind, but it’s made all the difference ever since. Apologize! I could tell my kids I was SORRY when I messed up.
I know this may not sound very ground-breaking. For some this advice might be like “well…duhhhh….?” But it was life-changing for me. Apologies and forgiveness were not the norm for me. I wasn’t even that good at with my own husband – so the thought of apologizing to my children? Never really occurred to me. Full transparency: it’s STILL something I actively work in my marriage.
But when I finally accepted that I’d never have the ~PERFECT~ parenting day and that I could tell my children that I was sorry when I messed and then ask for their forgiveness? Well, it made all the difference. Here’s why:
One disclaimer here: I’m not saying you grovel and beg for forgiveness for everything. The kids are NOT in charge. YOU are the parent. You’re allowed to be firm. You’re allowed (and should!) discipline your kids. I’m specifically talking about scenarios in which *YOU* missed the mark as a parent. Things like reacting out of anger, losing your temper and control of your emotions, speaking unkindly, or just plain old making a poor parenting decision, etc. You’ll KNOW those times when you didn’t handle a situation correctly. This is NOT a I-made-my-kids-sad-so-I-feel-bad-and-I-need-to-apologize-to-make-them-happy-again. Nope. Not it.
Apologizing isn’t always easy to do. Sometimes it takes a little time. Sometimes I have to walk away and get my emotions under control before I can apologize. But it always feels better when I do. Again, it’s okay to take a spoonful of humble pie and admit that yup, you mess up, and it’s okay to apologize. And kids are amazing. They forgive freely and generously. It’s pretty cool to have an actual conversation with your kids as they get older where you can explain where you were coming from, why you messed up, and genuinely say you’re sorry. And then your kids can actually understand your perspective.
Spoiler alert: if you do this enough (like I’ve apparently had to), your kids eventually start doing this for their own mistakes. When they lose their temper. When they make a poor decision. When you see your kids come to you an apologize *ON THEIR OWN* it’s pretty cool. And then you get the opportunity to freely and generously forgive them too!
Is this a new idea to you or something you’ve been practicing all along? I’d love to hear your own experience with this!
From one imperfect mom who has to apologize more than she’d like,