We don’t want to wound our children, but we’re not perfect. It can happen! And you know what? There’s grace for that. Wounds can be healed. We do it by building relationships of trust.
I’ve been reflecting on ways to do that. It’s important to respect our children as individuals and learn how each one ticks. Then we can engage with them in ways that show them how much they are valued. We can ask for and receive their permission to protect their hearts. We can pay attention to our tone of voice and speak to them kindly, keeping it level and safe for them. We can explain our anger to them, especially when it’s really ourselves that we’re angry with.
And we can tell them, “I’m sorry.”
The temptation is to say, “I’m the mom,” or “I’m the dad, so it’s my way or the highway. If you don’t like it, too bad.” It’s tempting, but that stuff never works. Ever. It gets kids to shut up and do what they’re told, but it doesn’t build trust.
I’ve done it to my kids. I’ve been impatient or I’ve been in my weakness, and I’ve told them, “Hey, too bad. You’re going to do it.” And they’ve done it. But later, I didn’t feel good about how it went down. I don’t need to wound my kids. I want to be able to say to them, “Let’s talk about this.” So I’ve gone to them and recovered the situation. We’ve sat and talked.
There’s nothing to be lost from having a conversation with my kids. I’m the parent, so I’ll get my way. My way is the right way and I know it. But I talk to them about it. I explain that they’re thinking from a child’s perspective, and I’m thinking from a grown man’s perspective. That’s why I want them to trust me, and understand that I’m protecting them with what I’m asking them to do. I’m making them better, and I’m watching them become leaders. “I don’t want you to be wounded over it,” I tell them. “I want your heart to remain intact and pure. And I want us to have a relationship.”
We sit there and we dialog. We talk it out. Before you know it, I’m not angry with them, they’re not angry with me, and we’re having a conversation. I ask them if they have any resentment towards me over what happened. If they say yes, then I apologize. I say I’m sorry.
It doesn’t matter if I was right or wrong. My kids have resentment, so I say I’m sorry. By apologizing, I’m not saying they were right. I’m saying, “Look, I’m sorry that I affected you in that way. You know that what I said was right, but how can I say it to you where it won’t hurt you?” All I have to do is ask. They’ll tell me. And then I can say, “Okay, next time I will do that. I’m sorry you felt so hurt.”
Should you say you are sorry? No question. Absolutely, yes, you should always say, “I’m sorry.” If you want a relationship with your children, you’re going to have to understand that.
I’m raising my kids and I’m going to mess it up. When I make mistakes, I have to be a dad and a human being. That means I have to look at them and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t agree with what you did. I don’t like that you did it. But I did not handle it correctly as your dad, and for that, I’m sorry.”
This is not easy. Parenting is not easy! But it’s dialog, and I love having conversations with my kids. This is how we heal wounds and build trust, and it’s awesome.