The answer is No, it’s never too late to say sorry. I know it is a Justin Bieber song but also the title of this blog post which I felt was an important one to share. I wish I had the knowledge I have now when my teens were younger, but unfortunately ten years ago I didn’t and as a result made many, many and many more mistakes as a parent. When we parent from an unconscious place, we have no road map providing us with guidance to ensure that we don’t harm, scar and damage our children in our effort to raise balanced healthy adults one day. I can only forgive myself and try to do better with the knowledge I have in the present moment.
A powerful way to connect and repair the damage done to our relationship with our kids is to APOLOGISE to them. I clearly remember my mother never apologising to me as a child when she hurt me or was wrong and I spent a huge portion of my childhood being angry with her as a result. My inner child still struggles with unfairness and injustice and when I am upset with my kids, my spouse or anyone else I often find this to be at root of it. I am aways going on about the ‘Principle”of the matter and often this is influenced by my perception and is therefore subjective. She was only carrying her childhood pattern of behaviour forward, but I am not prepared to pass it on to another generation. The unconscious cycle of parenting must end with me!
So since I never had a role model of an adult apologising to a child, I had to learn how and it is a skill all parents need to learn as well. Cecilia Hilkey from HappyFamily.com in her post “Parents Make Mistakes Too – How to Apologise mention six valuable things to consider :
1. AVOID SELF-JUDGEMENT
When you say something that hurts your child, it can be tempting to beat yourself up, blame or shame yourself. Self-judgement stops self growth.
Rather than thinking, “I’m a horrible parent”, think “What feeling was I having?”. Were you frustrated, disappointed, impatient, or angry?
Then connect to the unmet need that you had. Was it for order, predictability, ease, peace, or harmony?
Lastly, can you have compassion for the version of yourself that acted in the way that you now regret?
2. TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU REGRET
This can be as simple as saying, “I regret what happened earlier when I said ___. I wasn’t being the kind of parent I want to be.”
Or say, “I’m sorry for _____. I wish I had said ____.”
This is a good time to engage your higher-order thinking brain because you are no longer flooded with emotions.
3. START OVER
Ask for a “do over”. This is where you might even be able to add some lightness or humor.
“Can we get out a big imaginary eraser and erase our earlier conversation?” or “Can I start over? Let’s press the rewind button. I can do it differently this time.”
4. ROLE MODEL RECONNECTION
Our kids learn from us. If we beat ourselves up for a mistake, they will learn to beat themselves up. If we reconnect quickly after a blow up, they learn to reconnect quickly.
If we can’t tolerate imperfection in ourselves, our kids will learn not to tolerate imperfection in themselves.
If we make a big deal out of a small mistake, they will make a big deal out of their small mistakes. If we love our kids even when they mess up, they will love others even when they mess up.
5. BE IMPERFECT
As a kid, it was very powerful for my dad to apologize to me. It taught me that he was wasn’t perfect. But–more importantly–it taught me that I didn’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by my dad.
Ultimately, I became less defensive when I made mistakes. I became more compassionate with myself and others, and more willing to reconnect with others when I’d done something that I regretted.
6. BE ENGAGED
Said in the words of Brené Brown, “Sometimes, when we can’t tolerate imperfection, uncertainty, or vulnerability, we opt out of engagement. Unfortunately, disengagement can be our default…The engaged parenting motto seems to be, ‘I’m not perfect, but I’m here. Open. Present. Willing. Fully engaged.’”
As parents, we make mistakes. This may be humbling, but it’s ok for our kids to see that we aren’t perfect. It is helpful for our kids to also see what to do when mistakes happen.
Kids also forgive easily.
It blew me away the first time one of our kids apologized to me after they had a blow up.
This is how kids learn to apologize authentically and unprompted.
As a recovering Perfectionist, I now openly show my flaws to my kids and apologise when I mess up so that they don’t cling to the lie of Perfection one day as adults and especially as parents. Can you say the same? Start today by saying “I am sorry! ”