Talking to a colleague recently, we were lamenting the challenges of parenthood. Agreeing that we were both moms first, and therapists second, we acknowledged that we did not always take our own professional advice. We each divulged times when we had lost it and yelled at our kids. Not having to pay bills, prepare meals, do laundry, etc., gives children time to watch us adults in action. And like your family dog who watches your every move and knows when he’s about to get fed or go on a walk, kids too, figure out the little nuances of each of their parents. What this information gives them, is the power to push buttons. When my buttons get pushed, I admit I’m not infallible. When this happens, I occasionally resort to things not recommended in the parenting books—like yelling.
As a parent, you usually know when you’ve made a mistake because, well, you just feel bad afterwards. What you do next will have a big impact on the relationship between you and your child. If you feel you’ve made a mistake, it’s best to offer a simple apology to your child as soon as you are able to. It might sound something like this:
“I’m sorry I yelled at you last night. I’ve been thinking about it and it really didn’t help the situation or add to a solution for our disagreement.”
“I’ve had some time to think about our argument, and I realize that taking away your phone for two months is a punishment that is too big for the crime. After rethinking what happened, I think 2 weeks sounds more reasonable.”
By letting your child know that you have carefully reflected on the situation, are willing to admit you made a mistake, and then offer an apology or solution, you are modeling excellent parenting for him or her. Children need to know it’s okay to be wrong and make mistakes. It’s how they respond to and handle those mistakes that will determine successes in life.
So when It is deserved, apologize to your children! They will admire and respect you for doing so. And in this consumption-driven world, that is something that simply cannot be bought.