8 Faith-Based Reasons You Should Apologize to Your Kids

There are days when I put the kids to bed and feel like I should be handed an Olympic medal for my performance as a mom in the most trying of situations (OK, not many, but maybe once a year). Then there are days that I put the kids to bed, close the door, and fold my face into my heads thinking of how I handled the challenges that came my way that day.

One night last week, I visited a friend on a “face in the hands” day. I told her how disappointed I was in my handling of a situation and how I had to apologize to my daughter. This led to a conversation about how often to apologize to your kids and the tradeoff of losing perceived authority. It made me reflect on how much my view of this has changed in the last few months.

I’ve come to believe strongly that I should apologize to my kids each and every time it is warranted, and that this approach to parenting is one of the most valuable contributions I can make to my kids’ faith.

Why is apologizing so important in the context of Christian parenting?

1.       It facilitates accountability.

 

If you are concerned that apologizing to your kids too often will make you lose credibility, consider that the problem is how often you need to apologize rather than that apologizing itself is an issue.

This is a hard truth. There have been times I have acted in frustration with the kids so often that I felt I had to pick and choose when to apologize so I wasn’t apologizing all the time. I realized one day that this inconsistency is as confusing as not apologizing at all. The truth is, no one wants to apologize to their kids all the time. If you commit to apologizing each and every time you owe it to your kids, it actually creates an accountability that helps change your behavior.

 

2.       It clearly defines right and wrong.

 

It’s tempting to think we can quietly move on after adult “misbehavior,” but if we don’t address the inappropriateness of what we do, it creates an ongoing double standard. As adults, we tend to think double standards are bad because they are unfair, but the real problem for kids is that double standards are confusing. Morality doesn’t vary based on who you are. We owe it to our kids to create a strong understanding of the morality that God has laid before all people, young and old.

 

3.       It provides for a natural space to discuss behavior in the context of faith.

 

Apologizing in a meaningful way requires a full stop and a heart-felt conversation.  I explain what I did wrong and why it “makes God sad”.  I always make it a faith lesson because any moral failure is, by definition, a failure against God’s standards. To simply address behavior as wrong fails to take advantage of an opportunity to tell our kids what the Bible has to say about it.

 

4.       It provides for the teachable moment that our sin nature is universal.

 

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every time I apologize to my kids, I discuss this concept.

For my 3-year-olds, I ask, “Does mommy behave badly sometimes?” (Yes) “Do you behave badly sometimes?” (Yes) “Who is the only one who is perfect all the time?” (Jesus) I consistently reinforce that I will never be perfect, but I want them to trust that when I do misbehave, I will tell them so they can learn from my mistakes too.

 

5.       It provides for the teachable moment that God loves us ALL the time.

 

There is never a time more powerful to teach this than when kids assume God must be mad at them or at us. I end every apology conversation with, “Does God love us even when we misbehave?” (yes) “Does that mean we should misbehave because God loves us anyway?” (no) “We want to behave because God loves us and we love Him. But when we do misbehave, we can always know He still loves us and wants to help us do better.”

 

6.       It is a natural transition to a prayer experience.

 

If you get into the habit of closing an apology conversation with the point that God wants to help us do better, it’s a perfect time to pray with your kids by first asking for God’s forgiveness and then asking for God’s wisdom to be a better parent in that area.  Seeing this demonstrated first-hand gives your kids insight into a prayer area they may otherwise not experience.

 

7.       It gives kids the experience of forgiving.

 

It’s easy to forget how often we are in the business of letting our kids know they did something wrong.  They get a lot of experience apologizing, but if we never apologize ourselves, they don’t experience the act of forgiving.

 

8.       When you get better at handling situations, that becomes a teachable moment too.

 

I’ve been working on not responding to my 3-year-old’s tantrums with yelling. The other night she threw a fit and I remained particularly calm. Afterward I took the time to actually debrief with her on my response. I asked, “Did mommy yell tonight when you were yelling?” (no) “Was mommy kind even when you were not?” (yes) “Does that mean mommy behaved how God wants us to behave?” (yes) “I’ve been asking God to help me be the best mommy possible. God helps us in that way!”

Kenna’s reply: “Mommy, you did great tonight and I adore you.”  I can think of no greater compliment.

What do YOU think? Should you regularly apologize to your kids? Why or why not?

12 Comments

  1. Bev Wafford Morris on August 1, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    I learned long ago that it is necessary to apologize to my children. It really opens the door for discussion about how none of us , how we are supposed to forgive others.is perfect, and how we need to forgive each other, because God forgives us. It’s one of the very basics of Christianity, one that I don’t think would be driven home as hard if I just made them apologize to each other..



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on August 2, 2012 at 10:02 PM

      Hi Bev, That’s a great way to put it, that it wouldn’t be “driven home as hard” if we weren’t involved in the process. Whether they realize it or not, kids certainly take things more seriously when mom or dad are involved!



  2. Bev Wafford Morris on August 1, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    ‘how none of us’ should be ‘how none of us are perfect’, lol. See? No one is perfect.



  3. Rosann on August 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    It (apologizing) also helps eliminate the ugliness of pride. 🙂 That’s where my issue is. Sometimes I don’t apologize or I do grudgingly because I’m so prideful that I’m not willing to admit that I was wrong. Those of us who tend to be control freaks can easily struggle with admitting we’re wrong. It’s a daily lesson and challenge for me to lose the pride. Pride is sinful. I’m nothing without God. Including the fact that I wouldn’t be a mom, if not for Him. This was a great article Natasha. Very good subject matter to discuss.
    Blessings to you, friend!
    ~Rosann



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on August 2, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      Oh, this is an excellent point, Rosann! Pride absolutely gets in the way of apologizing. I’m definitely willing to bucket myself in the camp of control freak with you. 🙂 I really, really hate to be wrong. I have had to just get my head around finding the joy in using my mistakes as teaching tools for my kids. Of course, I’m not going looking for bad behavior, but I can at least now see when it’s there that I can make good from it for the Lord!



  4. Heidi on August 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I loved this! I too struggle with the things you all mentioned…and maybe a little lack of patience here and a little anger from being inconvenienced there. A few years ago, I decided to pay close attention to this issue after my oldest daughter told me that I owed her an apology. She held up the mirror and I’m glad she did. I would have looked like such a hypocrite in her eyes and lost all credibility with her if I had not recognized it. Natasha, you put perfectly into words all of the thoughts I had roaming around in my head and reminded me of a few key opportunities I need to build upon. Ending an apology in prayer is fantastic! Thank you for your article!!
    ~Heidi



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on August 3, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      Hi Heidi, Thanks so much!

      I am so happy to hear that this was helpful to you! You mention impatience and anger…those are precisely the things I struggle with most as I seek to mold my character into a more Christ-like form. Undoubtedly, though, as much as we work through these things and pray for God’s guidance, we will still be in a place of imperfection that makes asking for our kids’ forgiveness a regular imperative!



  5. Sophiejack on August 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    I love that you shared these thoughts on parenting. When I was growing up, it was unheard of for parents to apologize to their children. They were the absolute authority, period. When I had my son, I wanted so badly to be more calm and precise in discipline and always leave a door open for conversation. Little did I know, this little boy would be a shot out of a cannon! I found myself behaving exactly like my mother, and still do… However, I learned very quickly that I needed to apologize when I was too harsh or too quick in order not to turn my child’s heart away. His behavior is much better, and I think partly that is because he knows Mommy and Daddy make mistakes too. We have to obey God’s Word too and are also accountable for our actions. Kids need to know that adults are just humans too who also need the grace of God. Thanks again!



  6. Jamie Pender on September 13, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    I love this article. I believe it is so important to be able to apologize to my children. They deserve it as much as anyone else. It shows I’m not perfect, and that I care about their feelings and opinions. I feel it’s an important lesson in life. Apologizing and forgiveness. We all need to take part. We are no better than they are. I think it gives us MORE credibility as parents and our children respect us more for it.



  7. Greg Kennon on November 13, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Like others who commented, I don’t remember receiving any apologies from parents. When I became a parent, I felt the need to apologize, and wondered why that wasn’t part of my childhood. I don’t know if I apologize every time it is warranted, but this blog has strengthened my resolve to apologize every time I should. Thank you for writing this.



  8. Eleia on May 12, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    Wow, this was an amazing article. I came here because I found myself having to apologize to my boyfriend’s kids who are not mine. But I offended them so I apologize numerous times. The things I have apologize for he, their dad continues to accuse me of, but anyways that’s another story. Point is I thought to myself, should I be apologizing to these kids, their own mother has not even apologized to them for her wrongs in their life. But glad I found this article because Me being the one saved & serving as a Christian role model in their life has to be the one to set the example. So I know that apologizing to them was the right thing to do. I also asked for their forgiveness. When I get my own children I will make sure I do the same.



  9. Julie Plagens on February 4, 2018 at 3:28 PM

    These are very meaningful words to me. I was touched by the way you were able to use one of your own moments of failure to teach us all. Not just your kids. Apologizing to your kids shows them who God is and who you are. You have not lost authority by being human and accountable. I linked your post to my blog. It is where it talks about faith-based teaching. https://momremade.com/apologize-child-5-things-happen-dont/
    Many blessings to you!