We all say and do things we shouldn’t. Relationships are ruptured and in need of repair. Whether this is with our spouse, our coworkers, friends, or our kids, a repair is needed and our kids look to us as the example of how to do this. They see us make mistakes and are sometimes hurt by our words and actions toward them.
What do we do with those teachable moments? Do we say, “I’m the adult. Do as I say, not as I do.” Or, do we own our mistake and show our kids how to do the same? Our decision in these moments can determine how our kids handle ruptures with others when they are adults.
Behavior, good or bad, is caught, not taught. While we can teach our kids skills, most of what they will learn from us is from how we model it for them daily. When we model repairing mistakes for our kids, they learn to repair their own mistakes. Thankfully we have LOTS of opportunities to show our kids how to do this.
First, we have to own the mistakes we make. If this is hard, you may need to do some soul searching to figure out why. Did you have it modeled for you, or did your parents just pretend it didn’t happen and move on so you learned to do the same?
We also need to be careful not to justify our actions to our kids, or blame them for our actions. This is easy to do and brings more shame for our kids while diminishing the effectiveness of our apology. We can address those things that they did wrong in the interaction at a later time. The apology is about your own actions, independent from your child.
Our kids will not only have conflict with us but also with siblings and friends. Instead of simply ordering our kids to apologize to their friend or sibling, we can use the model we have already set to help them in these situations.
Johnny and Susie are playing with toys. Johnny says to Susie, “I want that toy!” and Susie responds with, “No. It’s mine!” Johnny then proceeds to yank the toy out of Susie’s hand and hit her. She begins crying and runs to mom.
How can we help Johnny and Susie repair this rupture in their relationship?
For this example, we’ll assume that we know exactly what happened and don’t have to figure out the details.
First, we go to Susie, who is hurt, and give comfort. We can ask questions that engage her upstairs brain such as, “Where does it hurt?” or “What do you need?” We can ask Johnny to go get a bandaid or ice pack to begin to repair the relationship. Once the children are both calm we can help them redo the interaction, using good words, and help Johnny apologize for the hurt he caused.
We can also teach Susie how to accept the apology. Often times when someone apologizes, we automatically respond with, “That’s okay” and let the person off the hook. Instead, we can teach our children to respond to ‘I’m sorry’ with a phrase like, “thank you” or “thank you for apologizing” instead.
The most important thing is to repair relationships before the wound is too deep. Wounds left untreated begin to fester and require so much more care. If we are quick to admit our mistakes and offer an apology, even to our kids, they will learn healthy ways to repair the ruptures that will happen in relationships.
Have you apologized to your kids for things you did in anger? Have you seen your kids learn from this example? We’d love to celebrate your success with you! Share your story in the comments.
Also Found In: Tapestry Blog