How to Apologize to Your Child: A Conscious Parent’s Guide

Why It’s Important to Apologize to your children

Apologizing can be hard, especially if you didn’t grow up receiving them, but for parents who practice Gentle and/or Conscious Parenting it’s par for the course. We apologize because it’s the decent thing to do when you’ve done something wrong, but also because we want our children to learn hold themselves accountable as well.  As mentioned in other posts, in Conscious Parenting we rely heavily on modeling the behavior we’d like to see in our children. In the beginning, apologizing wasn’t easy for me, but I’ve had to suck it up and get comfortable apologizing to my kids when I screw up.  In fact, apologizing to my son was one of the reasons I began my Conscious Parenting journey in the first place:

I was pretty ashamed of myself that day, and vowed to really understand what it means to be a Conscious Parent. Apologizing was just the start, but it was an important start.

black mom with two sons

Let’s consider the following example, shall we:

Your child does something.

You react.

Your child feels hurt/angry/upset.

You feel guilty/upset about your reaction.

Sound familiar? 

If you are practicing conscious parenting, then you know that you are now at a crossroad. What you do next could place you directly on the road to correcting the situation and learning from the experience, or send you on a downhill sliding further and further into triggered emotions.

Don’t worry, we are all human and this is an opportunity for you to step back and truly focus on parenting consciously.

How to Apologize to Your Child

1. Regulate your emotions

The first step is to make sure you and your child are calm.  Talk about what happened and what triggered you to respond the way you did. This will not only help you continue to calm down, but also teach your child how to deal with their emotions. Explain your emotions and listen to them when they explain theirs. Help them understand why you got upset.

2. Say, “I’m sorry” 

You just have to do it. And the apology can’t be, “i’m sorry I reacted that way, but you…” Own your part. If you lost your cool, it’s okay. It happens. We all lose it sometimes. Holding yourself accountable is an important step on this journey. You can do it.

It is essential in parenting to develop a good relationship with your child, and this starts with being honest and consciously present. Children need to know that you are there for them and will protect them. A simple yet effective way of doing this is by teaching your children the importance of an apology, and being willing to apologize yourself.

Make a true apology to assure your child knows you are sincere. Allow them to see how important an apology is, and the steps it takes to truly apologize. A few simple steps to remember are:

  1. Take responsibility for the hurt you’ve caused
  2. Be sincere and honest
  3. Express regret or remorse
  4. Ask for forgiveness
black family walking down the street

Your child will feel less upset, even happier, after an apology.

Children who are apologized to show a significant reduction in anger, guilt, and/or negative emotions after the apology is given. They also often show an improvement in mood in their next interaction with that parent. 

It is important not to minimize a child’s feelings, as they are humans and also have a right to feel how they feel. By quickly acknowledging your mistake, and apologizing for it as soon as possible, you are validating your child’s feelings, allowing them to also acknowledge them and understand why they felt the way they did. This helps your child to be able to better handle their feelings in the future as well.

family photos

Susan Shapiro explains in her book, The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology, that children want to feel heard, understood and loved. A parent acknowledging their mistake or offense is the first step to apologizing to their child. But also a step toward helping your child know that it is okay for them to communicate their feelings without repercussions. Through the words and actions of an apology your child understands that they are heard and understood.

Give yourself grace

It is easy to get caught up in the idea that we have to be perfect at parenting. That we have to be the perfect parent and do everything right. This can lead us to feel like we are not doing a good job, or feeling guilty when we make a mistake.

However, being a parent is hard, and it’s okay to make mistakes. We should give ourselves grace when we do make mistakes because they are part of the process of becoming better parents. Remind yourself that conscious parenting is a journey and you are human. Everyone makes mistakes, the goal is to learn something from the mistakes made.

Work on connecting with your child without guilt (it doesn’t serve you)

Listening to our children is vital to conscious parenting. By listening and understanding their feelings, you are able to slowly nurture them enough to feel secure again. Holding onto guilt can prevent you from fully connecting with your child. 

The final step after apologizing to your child is to show them, through your actions, that you were sincere in your apology and are being mindful as you move forward. Children are always learning by watching the example parents set. Help your child see that a sincere apology and forgiveness allows everyone to move on in a healthy way.

When was the last time you apologized to your child?

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  1. Julie Wilson says:

    Hi Lisa, thanks for reaching out to me with this email, it’s sure timely as I grandchildren a plenty 4 actually and I’m happy to receive good thought out plans for better outcomes for our children, well done, good luck and thank you, Julie.

  2. Christina says:

    Oh my goodness, you’re a beautiful woman, inside and out. Thank you for this. It is how I’ve been trying to be a parent to my kids. It’s not always easy because I lose my cool more than I would like to admit, but when I can stay calm and talk with them about problems, it always ends up better. And when I apologize for yelling and losing control, it seems like they understand that if mom makes mistakes, it’s ok if they do to. We just love each other and keep doing our best.

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