I’ve got some news for you, but you already know it- You’re not God. You are a parent, but you’re not the perfect parent. It would be nice to do and say everything flawlessly, but you don’t. And you can’t. Really, that should take some pressure off.
Does God care about the state of your relationships? You bet He does. In fact, He calls us to make our relationships right before we come to Him. We don’t live as solitary creatures who just relate to God and don’t care about each other. Remember this from the Sermon on the Mount?
Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:23-24
Every parent at some point expects (and demands) an apology from their child. And we all direct our kids to apologize to someone else when they should. But what are you saying to your child when you never apologize to them? Really, think about that. What are you saying? Maybe…
- I never mess up, so I never need to apologize.
- I am your superior, so I don’t apologize to you.
- I don’t respect you enough to admit that you deserve an apology.
- My job is to rule you, not be in relationship with you.
- I still expect you to apologize to me, so double standards are fine.
Is any of this what you want to come across to your kids? They won’t put it together on their own until they’re older, but they will eventually put it together. And they will think less, not more, of you as a result. And keep in mind Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Never ruin a good apology with an excuse.” Make the apology and actual apology!
Modeling Godly Remorse
When you apologize to your kids, you are showing them that you love them the way God wants you to love them. With humility, respect, fairness, and self-awareness. Maybe you let your frustration, stress, or anger get the better of you. Maybe you jumped to a conclusion. Whatever it was, if you owe an apology, give it. And the sooner, the better. Your relationship with your child will be stronger as a result. I promise, you’re not going to lose face as the authority.
For kids who are older elementary age and up, go ahead and point out that God is their perfect parent, and unlike you, He will never make a mistake. But you know who you are, and you are not only willing to own up to your failings, you want to. We’re only open to God’s instruction when we stay humble and teachable. There’s no gain in convincing ourselves, our kids, or anyone else that we’ve got it all together all the time. And that’s not what we want to model to our kids. For sure.
What It Looks Like
Ideally, the first time you do this, your child won’t even be expecting it. It will come as a total surprise, and they will have a strong emotional reaction to it. That’s perfect. It might sound something like this, “Remember when I took your toy away from you in the car earlier? I shouldn’t have done that. I was frustrated at other cars, and we were late, and instead of being patient with you, I made a bad choice. I am so sorry for treating you like that. I could see it made you sad, and I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”
When they’re older, it might be something more like, “Hey, when you asked me to go to the store for you and I blew up, that was about me not you. I’ve been wanting you to plan better, but that wasn’t the way to handle it. I should have had a calm response, and we should have solved the problem together. I took the easy way out, and lashed out in anger. I am so sorry for treating you like that. You deserve better, and I apologize. Can you forgive me?”
Let me assure you, when you create this dynamic in your relationships with your kids, you are showing them why and how to apologize. You’re going to be on the receiving end at some point. At first, you’ll prompt them to do it. Even when they’re older, you’ll still have to prompt them sometimes! My daughter was recently very stressed about a crisis and took it out on me. I waited, but when she had moved on without circling back to apologize, I said, “Earlier, you ______ when you were mad. That wasn’t right, and you know it. I expect an apology when you treat me like that.” And then I shut up, and she made it right.
Most of the time, though, she steps up before I prod her. Both kids do. It’s pleasing to me and to the Lord when one of the kids says on the drive home from school, “Mom, I’m thinking about what I said a few minutes ago. I don’t think that was very respectful, so I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have acted like that.” (This happened yesterday, and I hadn’t even thought it was that bad!)
Lead the way in admitting you’re wrong and apologizing when it’s warranted. What a lovely way to make forgiveness part of the fabric of your family.