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5 Steps to Saying Sorry as a Parent and Really Meaning It

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five simple ways to help parents accept our inevitable screw-ups and apologize in a healthy way.

Every parent in the world has said and done things to their kids that they regret. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse aside (all of which are totally avoidable and never ok), all parents screw up sometimes. It comes with the job of being a parent. From this very moment on into the future, it is guaranteed that you, dear reader, will say or do something to your child(ren) that you regret.

The good news: repair is ALWAYS possible after rupture.

So it’s happened, you’ve snapped and yelled, maybe even screamed. Maybe you said something that was mean, petty, or resentful. The damage is done. Now what?

Step 1: Accept your mistake

Before saying or doing anything, internally reflect on and accept what happened. This might be the hardest step of all. Accepting we screwed up might trigger other unwanted feelings like fear that our child(ren) will think less of us, not respect us, or take advantage of us.

Or perhaps we fear that accepting our mistakes will let our kid(s) off the hook for mistakes they made. However, accepting our own relationship mistakes is actually a huge step toward building a stronger relationship with our kids, encouraging greater honesty in them, and showing them that it’s safe to take responsibility for mistakes.

Step 2: Return to your child and ask if it’s ok to talk about what happened

This step lets your child know that you’re ready to talk when it feels safe for them to talk. Not only will little be accomplished if your child is still upset or angry, but it lets them know you respect their space and autonomy, and aren’t just trying to ram through your agenda.

Step 3: State how you experienced the event in question

Letting your child into your world helps provide context for your apology. For example: “When I experienced you run into my office without knocking, I felt scared and rushed. I had a lot of work to do and I was afraid that your interruption would cause me to get in trouble with my boss.”

Relaying our experience not only sets the ground for an appropriate apology; it also models how we can have big, scary emotions and recover from them.

Step 4: Apologize

A simple “I’m sorry that I...” or “I’m sorry for…” is all that is needed. It’s important however that we clearly articulate what we’re sorry for because it gives others a clear context for the apology. And when we verbally accept and apologize for rupturing the relationship, we teach our children that it is safe for them to do the same.

Step 5: Return to the mistake

Sometimes it can be helpful to use our past mistakes with our present moments to help children see how we are growing and learning. For example, “Remember when I screamed when you ran into my office? This time I didn’t. I’m still not happy that you ran in, but we can now find a different way to handle this.”

Reflections like this let kids see that growth is not just possible, but a natural part of life. Mistakes are just one step on the way to greater self-understanding and stronger connections.

However, if you observe yourself tending to make and apologize for the same relational mistakes, talking to a therapist could help you work through the emotional triggers that keep getting pulled.

5 Steps to Saying Sorry as a Parent and Really Meaning It

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5 Steps to Saying Sorry as a Parent and Really Meaning It

Every parent has done or said something to their child that they regret. Accepting the mistake, talking about it, and apologizing aren’t always easy, but our expert team provides five simple steps to help.

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Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five simple ways to help parents accept our inevitable screw-ups and apologize in a healthy way.

Every parent in the world has said and done things to their kids that they regret. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse aside (all of which are totally avoidable and never ok), all parents screw up sometimes. It comes with the job of being a parent. From this very moment on into the future, it is guaranteed that you, dear reader, will say or do something to your child(ren) that you regret.

The good news: repair is ALWAYS possible after rupture.

So it’s happened, you’ve snapped and yelled, maybe even screamed. Maybe you said something that was mean, petty, or resentful. The damage is done. Now what?

Step 1: Accept your mistake

Before saying or doing anything, internally reflect on and accept what happened. This might be the hardest step of all. Accepting we screwed up might trigger other unwanted feelings like fear that our child(ren) will think less of us, not respect us, or take advantage of us.

Or perhaps we fear that accepting our mistakes will let our kid(s) off the hook for mistakes they made. However, accepting our own relationship mistakes is actually a huge step toward building a stronger relationship with our kids, encouraging greater honesty in them, and showing them that it’s safe to take responsibility for mistakes.

Step 2: Return to your child and ask if it’s ok to talk about what happened

This step lets your child know that you’re ready to talk when it feels safe for them to talk. Not only will little be accomplished if your child is still upset or angry, but it lets them know you respect their space and autonomy, and aren’t just trying to ram through your agenda.

Step 3: State how you experienced the event in question

Letting your child into your world helps provide context for your apology. For example: “When I experienced you run into my office without knocking, I felt scared and rushed. I had a lot of work to do and I was afraid that your interruption would cause me to get in trouble with my boss.”

Relaying our experience not only sets the ground for an appropriate apology; it also models how we can have big, scary emotions and recover from them.

Step 4: Apologize

A simple “I’m sorry that I...” or “I’m sorry for…” is all that is needed. It’s important however that we clearly articulate what we’re sorry for because it gives others a clear context for the apology. And when we verbally accept and apologize for rupturing the relationship, we teach our children that it is safe for them to do the same.

Step 5: Return to the mistake

Sometimes it can be helpful to use our past mistakes with our present moments to help children see how we are growing and learning. For example, “Remember when I screamed when you ran into my office? This time I didn’t. I’m still not happy that you ran in, but we can now find a different way to handle this.”

Reflections like this let kids see that growth is not just possible, but a natural part of life. Mistakes are just one step on the way to greater self-understanding and stronger connections.

However, if you observe yourself tending to make and apologize for the same relational mistakes, talking to a therapist could help you work through the emotional triggers that keep getting pulled.

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five simple ways to help parents accept our inevitable screw-ups and apologize in a healthy way.

Every parent in the world has said and done things to their kids that they regret. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse aside (all of which are totally avoidable and never ok), all parents screw up sometimes. It comes with the job of being a parent. From this very moment on into the future, it is guaranteed that you, dear reader, will say or do something to your child(ren) that you regret.

The good news: repair is ALWAYS possible after rupture.

So it’s happened, you’ve snapped and yelled, maybe even screamed. Maybe you said something that was mean, petty, or resentful. The damage is done. Now what?

Step 1: Accept your mistake

Before saying or doing anything, internally reflect on and accept what happened. This might be the hardest step of all. Accepting we screwed up might trigger other unwanted feelings like fear that our child(ren) will think less of us, not respect us, or take advantage of us.

Or perhaps we fear that accepting our mistakes will let our kid(s) off the hook for mistakes they made. However, accepting our own relationship mistakes is actually a huge step toward building a stronger relationship with our kids, encouraging greater honesty in them, and showing them that it’s safe to take responsibility for mistakes.

Step 2: Return to your child and ask if it’s ok to talk about what happened

This step lets your child know that you’re ready to talk when it feels safe for them to talk. Not only will little be accomplished if your child is still upset or angry, but it lets them know you respect their space and autonomy, and aren’t just trying to ram through your agenda.

Step 3: State how you experienced the event in question

Letting your child into your world helps provide context for your apology. For example: “When I experienced you run into my office without knocking, I felt scared and rushed. I had a lot of work to do and I was afraid that your interruption would cause me to get in trouble with my boss.”

Relaying our experience not only sets the ground for an appropriate apology; it also models how we can have big, scary emotions and recover from them.

Step 4: Apologize

A simple “I’m sorry that I...” or “I’m sorry for…” is all that is needed. It’s important however that we clearly articulate what we’re sorry for because it gives others a clear context for the apology. And when we verbally accept and apologize for rupturing the relationship, we teach our children that it is safe for them to do the same.

Step 5: Return to the mistake

Sometimes it can be helpful to use our past mistakes with our present moments to help children see how we are growing and learning. For example, “Remember when I screamed when you ran into my office? This time I didn’t. I’m still not happy that you ran in, but we can now find a different way to handle this.”

Reflections like this let kids see that growth is not just possible, but a natural part of life. Mistakes are just one step on the way to greater self-understanding and stronger connections.

However, if you observe yourself tending to make and apologize for the same relational mistakes, talking to a therapist could help you work through the emotional triggers that keep getting pulled.

Every Friday, we bring you five related things, ideas, facts, or practices that we hope will make your parenting journey a little easier. This week, it’s five simple ways to help parents accept our inevitable screw-ups and apologize in a healthy way.

Every parent in the world has said and done things to their kids that they regret. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse aside (all of which are totally avoidable and never ok), all parents screw up sometimes. It comes with the job of being a parent. From this very moment on into the future, it is guaranteed that you, dear reader, will say or do something to your child(ren) that you regret.

The good news: repair is ALWAYS possible after rupture.

So it’s happened, you’ve snapped and yelled, maybe even screamed. Maybe you said something that was mean, petty, or resentful. The damage is done. Now what?

Step 1: Accept your mistake

Before saying or doing anything, internally reflect on and accept what happened. This might be the hardest step of all. Accepting we screwed up might trigger other unwanted feelings like fear that our child(ren) will think less of us, not respect us, or take advantage of us.

Or perhaps we fear that accepting our mistakes will let our kid(s) off the hook for mistakes they made. However, accepting our own relationship mistakes is actually a huge step toward building a stronger relationship with our kids, encouraging greater honesty in them, and showing them that it’s safe to take responsibility for mistakes.

Step 2: Return to your child and ask if it’s ok to talk about what happened

This step lets your child know that you’re ready to talk when it feels safe for them to talk. Not only will little be accomplished if your child is still upset or angry, but it lets them know you respect their space and autonomy, and aren’t just trying to ram through your agenda.

Step 3: State how you experienced the event in question

Letting your child into your world helps provide context for your apology. For example: “When I experienced you run into my office without knocking, I felt scared and rushed. I had a lot of work to do and I was afraid that your interruption would cause me to get in trouble with my boss.”

Relaying our experience not only sets the ground for an appropriate apology; it also models how we can have big, scary emotions and recover from them.

Step 4: Apologize

A simple “I’m sorry that I...” or “I’m sorry for…” is all that is needed. It’s important however that we clearly articulate what we’re sorry for because it gives others a clear context for the apology. And when we verbally accept and apologize for rupturing the relationship, we teach our children that it is safe for them to do the same.

Step 5: Return to the mistake

Sometimes it can be helpful to use our past mistakes with our present moments to help children see how we are growing and learning. For example, “Remember when I screamed when you ran into my office? This time I didn’t. I’m still not happy that you ran in, but we can now find a different way to handle this.”

Reflections like this let kids see that growth is not just possible, but a natural part of life. Mistakes are just one step on the way to greater self-understanding and stronger connections.

However, if you observe yourself tending to make and apologize for the same relational mistakes, talking to a therapist could help you work through the emotional triggers that keep getting pulled.

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

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