Fort Worth, Texas,
13:06 PM

It's (never) too late to apologize

Modeling apologies for our kids

Stop screaming in the car!

That's enough!

Just stop!

I'm the “out-of-home” worker in our family, while my wife is able to do her job mainly from the house. Therefore, I usually have:

  1. brief periods of time alone with the 3 kids.
  2. time at home when the duties are shared between my wife and me.

Because of Mother's Day Weekend, I got to spend more time alone with the 3 littles this weekend (all under 5).

As the weekend wore on, there were more moments of frustration.  I'd like to think they were just particularly crazy this weekend but I'm sure that would just be lying to myself and trying to justify my frustration.

Finally, on the way to get some tortillas for dinner Sunday night, after repeated attempts to get my kids in the car, listening to them scream at each other and seeing my 3 year old more or less punch my 5 year old in the face....

"Stop screaming in the car!

That's enough!

Just stop!"

I didn't REALLY yell at them. They weren't physically threatened. But, there were three pair of scared eyes looking back at me in the rear-view mirror.

Fortunately, a week before, I'd listened to Michael Hyatt's Podcast: 4 Difficult Sentences for Leaders.

In it, he outlines a four-sentence method for apologizing:

Sentence #1: I am sorry.

Sentence #2: I know that hurt.

Sentence #3: I was wrong.

Sentence #4: Will you please forgive me?

He also reminds us to avoid using terms like if and but...

So, I had the 5 minute drive home to think about it. The kids were quiet by now. They had either forgotten about it, they were too terrified to speak or Thomas the Tank Engine just got much more interesting.

But when we got home, here's how it went:

"Guys, I'm sorry I yelled at you. I know that was scary. I should not have done that. Will you please forgive me?"

Some tips:

  1. Apologize specifically for what you did, recognize how they felt, apologize again and ask forgiveness.
  2. Don't use ifs or buts.  It was very tempting to say, "I'm sorry I yelled at you guys, but you should have come quicker and you shouldn't have been screaming and you shouldn't..."  But, then I'm not truly acknowledging the fact that I shouldn't have raised my voice.

There has been talk in the media and blogging world lately about how forcing your kids to apologize doesn’t actually teach them to apologize. I’ve seen this to be true in my family, they barely get the “I’m sorry” out before they are running off to do something else and very likely to come back and do the same thing two minutes later.

However, there are many reasons to apologize to your kids. First, modeling that one should apologize when they are wrong is a better method of teaching your children the power of apology. Another benefit is what it does for you. After apologizing, I was back in the right frame of mind to go back inside and parent more positively and with more patience rather than continuing to be angry and letting my kids suffer the ongoing consequences. It sure didn’t hurt that I heard this in return:  

5 yo: Of course, we forgive you.

3 yo: Yeah, we wuv you dad.

Almost 2 yo: Go, go; pway, pway; hungy!!

Well, 2 out of 3 isn't so bad.

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Does anyone else have thoughts on apologizing to your kids? I'd love to hear them!