Why Apologizing to Your Kid is Important and What it Teaches Them
Although I don’t remember the details too clearly, when I was a kid I got into trouble with my parents. They had come down pretty harshly on me, and I had felt the punishment didn’t fit the crime, so to speak. I remember so clearly, my dad coming into my room after the confrontation. I expected further lectures and punishments. But instead? He apologized for blowing up.
I was stunned by the humility in his words. I knew I didn’t entirely deserve the apology—I had deserved some punishment—but that made the apology hit me all the harder. My dad—my authority figure—admitted he was wrong, asked for forgiveness, and was willing to listen to me as a fellow human being. I felt respected, cherished, and like I was given something I didn’t quite deserve. It also taught me that it was OK to apologize when I made a mistake. It taught me that authority doesn’t have to always pretend to be perfect and right all the time. His apology taught me that in a relationship, there is give and take and we all make mistakes and it is OK to own up to them.
It was a huge introduction to grace.
I’d been taught about grace, of course, and I knew the definition of the word, but this was a living, breathing, life lesson on the subject. I’ve never forgotten it.
What my dad’s lesson taught me was that not only did my parent here on earth have grace, but it allowed me to understand more about the grace God has for me too.
Let me pause for a second and assure you that I’m NOT saying we have to apologize to our kids all the time or that we never hold them accountable. But for me, that moment with my dad apologizing for “blowing his top” taught me authority can still be right without being prideful.
As a mom, I have carried that lesson with me. I have made mistakes with my harsh words and assumptions. There were times I did not want to apologize, but I have often thought back on that lesson with my dad and apologized anyway because he taught me that when we admit to our kids that we make mistakes it helps them own up to their own shortcomings.
Not only that, but being honest about our mistakes is one of greatest weapons in the battle with temptation. We need to get honest with God and honest with ourselves about our sin, and we need to model that for our children. Pretending mistakes don’t exist or trying to ignore them only leads to a lack of peace.
As mom, I’ve found it hard to face up to some of my mistakes, but so far the result of my honesty has been her own ability to be honest back to me. It’s allowed us to give each other grace.
If we don’t admit to our kids that we’ve struggled, why would they come to us for help? If we don’t admit we’ve fallen, how will they know we can help them pick themselves back up?
If our kids don’t see us surrendering to God and attempting to live an authentic life, why would they want to even try?
If we don’t admit to needing God’s grace and show them how God has given us grace, then how will they know they can trust us to give them grace?
We have received grace, so we also should give it. I’m not saying we have to act like that mom in the old carpet stain commercial who said, “That’s OK” to everyone who dumped all kinds of horrible junk on her carpet. But we love despite. We stay in the fight. We pray. We seek Jesus. We give grace.
God demonstrated this for me in my own life after a confrontation with my oldest. I felt him whisper to my angry heart: Tell her you love her.
Me: No. Not right now. Not happening. I’m waaaaay too mad.
Continued urging in my spirit. Be like Jesus, be love, be grace, be there for her.
Me (after a lot of pouting and whining and grumping in my closet): Fine.
And then on the other side of that? Peace. Maybe the issue isn’t fixed, and there are still consequences, but grace is there. Because in Jesus, grace is always there.
We must keep reminding our kids that God loves them! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say they left the church because they think God hates them because they are sinners. When God created the world, he said it was GOOD. God loves his children. Yes, sin entered the world and has caused all sorts of trouble ever since, but God does NOT hate you or me. God does NOT hate us because we have committed ______ sin.
The opposite is true. Only love would cause a father to send his only son to die in the place of someone else. That’s what he did for us. He foretold his plan right after that original sin with Adam and Eve. God said to the serpent, “I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” Genesis 3:15 MSG. This was the first prediction of Jesus’s coming.
The moment sin entered the world, God promised to make a way to repair the damage done by sin. God gave grace from the moment of the first sin. Grace wins. Jesus wins. In Jesus, we win.
And we win when we pass that grace onto others, whether it is in our own humility or in the way we handle ourselves when people have “sinned” against us. Are there consequences for mistakes? Absolutely and there should be. But we can give a consequence and still give grace at the same time.
How about you? What are ways you stay in this fight with your kids and the people you’ve mentored? How have people encouraged you to stay in the fight?