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Monday, June 12, 2006

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

What is your usual response when you realize you have wronged your child? Do you justify and rationalize your action? Do you avoid the situation and move on? Or are you quick to apologize to your child with sincerity?

Children need to know their parents aren’t always right! And they need to hear heartfelt apologies. How else will they learn to say sorry and mean it?

Some parents find it hard to apologize to their children because it leaves them feeling weak and less “in charge” or authoritative. What they don’t realize is that their children will have a great deal more respect for them as parents and human beings when they are treated respectfully. Why shouldn’t children be given the same respect that is given to a guest? By what right is a guest in your home worthy of more respect than your child? We need to stop looking at children as some sort of inferior sub species. They are human, only smaller, and actually more pure, innocent, impressionable and tender hearted than most adults. More adults need to let go of their foolish pride and value the fact that their children need to hear that their feelings are real and valid. If you do something to wrong them or hurt their feelings, then you are responsible for humbling yourself, sharing your regret and apologizing.

Monkey see, monkey do.

Children learn by example more than anything else. If you can say “I’m sorry” easily and with sincere regret, that trait will be integrated into your child’s character. Nobody wants their child to become the type of person who always has to be right, who would never “lower” himself to admit wrongdoing. But if that’s all he experiences from you, it’s all he will know.

You can look at it from another way as well. When you tell a child you are sorry, it gives them a feeling of self worth. He will have higher self esteem, and will be less likely to let people take advantage of him as he grows and matures. So not only will it shape the type of person he will become, but it will also have a strong effect on how he will allow others to treat him as well.

Lessons in forgiveness

Where there are apologies, there’s also a little thing called forgiveness. Yes, also a touchy subject. How do children learn to forgive? By watching you forgive. If your child apologizes for something he’s done, forgive him. Don’t hold a grudge. If he says he is sorry, don’t continue to explain why what he did was wrong. If he apologizes, forgive him, and then let it be over. Forgive with as much sincerity as you would apologize with. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: Apologize as you would wish to be apologized to, and forgive as you would wish to be forgiven.

It’s never too late.

If you did or said something that you later realize was wrong, take the time to talk to your child about it. It’s easy to let it go and forget about it if the child doesn’t bring it back up, but you never know what he is thinking about in that beautiful head of his. He may be reliving the experience over in his mind later that day or even days later. Don’t assume that if your child doesn’t mention it, that it is erased from his memory and no longer bothers him. Clear the air – apologize and talk with your child. It’s important for you to do it, and equally important for your child to hear it. You will both feel better afterwards, and it will build a stronger bond of mutual trust and respect in your relationship.

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