Happy Parents Apologize by M.J. Silva
As parents, we all have challenging days – and moments.
One of the most difficult challenges in those moments is having the ability and the courage to recognize our own faults.
We know how patience and empathy work. When we are calm, quiet and relaxed, we respond to our little ones in a calm and relaxing tone. But there are times when it seems like we can’t find a way to reduce to a lower gear in our internal gearbox.
And in a split second … we exceed ourselves. We make a mistake. In a fraction of a second – which is all it takes – we can cause a small – or huge – fracture in our relationship with our kids. Or worse. In their emotional structure.
Acknowledging that we too make mistakes – a lot of them – is one of the best skills that should define us as parents.
Apologizing is one of the noblest acts of a mother or a father. It requires humility, requires acknowledgment that we did something wrong.
It is essential for the emotional building of our precious little ones that we recognize when we act or react excessively.
Apologizing is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Knowing how and when to apologize, setting that example, will teach our little ones a lot about life. About love. Apologizing to our kids should be a matter of honor.
However, not an apology followed by a justification. But a deeply honest, sincere request, without associated excuses. “I’m sorry if I hurt you” or “I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings”. “What can I do to make it up for you?” followed by nothing more than our silence.
So why are we so afraid that our little ones might get spoiled or damaged if we apologize? Or that they will disrespect us because we apologize? On the contrary. They will respect us more. Admire us more. Moments of connection, understanding and loving actions will never cause a child to disrespect us. So fear not. Apologizing to our kids is an act of love.
Why is it so hard for us to apologize to our kids? If we learn to apologize, our kids will grow up learning humility, awareness, empathy. Apologizing to our kids helps them realize that we aren’t perfect. And it helps them understand that they themselves don’t have to be perfect either.
When we apologize to our precious little ones we teach them to regulate their own emotions, we teach them to respect themselves and the feelings of others. Apologizing to our kids shows them that we love them. Moreover, apologizing allows them to realize that we are choosing to be better parents, better people every single day. And it’s up to us to become more aware of that, too.
When we work on our own emotions, we model a way for them to learn to work on their own big feelings and emotions.
In a home full of empathy and understanding, there is greater cooperation, acceptance and happiness.
If we want to be happier parents, we have to mind our tone, the words we use. If we want our precious ones to grow up happy and emotionally structured, we need to recognize that every little action, reaction or word can remain forever engraved in their memory. Recorded in the deep core of their emotional mind. And it will eventually manifest itself. Immediately or only later. Inevitably. One way or the other.
There are unfortunately many people who spend their adult life trying to heal the wounds of their childhood. Many adults, even without being aware of it, avenge their own childhood on their precious little ones. It may sound gloomy, but it is full of logic and sense. I could write so many articles and books just on this matter.
Maybe your journey as a parent hasn’t been easy. It probably hasn’t.
And this is another reason why these words are for you. To help you understand that the path you are choosing every day, even if unconsciously, with your beloved children, is a result – in part – of your own past. Also, our response to a person’s behavior or to a situation is enabled by our own emotions, by our own feelings. Our responses are driven by our own internal dialogue, that we’ve developed since childhood.
We must be aware not to dump the woes of our deepest self, the frustrations of our day-to-day on our own little ones.
Our journey is our journey. And there is no one responsible for transforming it besides ourselves. We have to learn to apologize when we hurt our children’s feelings as much as others should when they hurt ours.
Children are people. They are humans before they are children. And long before they were our children. And they know a lot more than we think.
We must learn to breathe and to choose the downshift in our gearbox. Our little ones aren’t responsible when we are worn out, angry or frustrated – at work, in our relationships or within ourselves -. They aren’t responsible when we are the ones who cross the line.
We are the grown-ups. We have to learn how to manage our emotions. It may not be easy when we are tired or having a difficult moment – day or year – but if we train ourselves to regulate our feelings, observe and connect, we are taking a step forward in creating our own happiness.
In the most difficult times, always remember to stop, breathe and ask yourself: What would love do?
“Originally published in portuguese in Up To Kids ”
M.J. Silva is a mommy of a free spirited six year old musician and two dogs. A writer, an editor and an artist, M.J. also designs mindfulness coloring books – besides a million other kinds of books.
A strong activist of children’s rights and peaceful parenting, in her previous life M.J. had a degree in journalism, but dedicated twenty years to teaching and researching, falling in love with emotional and inteligence development in childhood.
“The world will change only when we radically change the way we look, perceive and treat our children.”