I once had someone tell me in order to be a good mom I needed to become my child’s absolute authority and that I should do everything within my power to ensure my authority never be compromised. This person went on to say that the most harmful thing a parent could do is show any sign of weakness and ended with, “the most ridiculous thing you could do is apologize to your child.”
If this is also your view of parenting I would kindly and emphatically urge you to reconsider.
I’ve often told others I apologize to my own children more than anyone else. That’s because they’re the ones that, more than anyone else, see the weak, broken, and sinful parts of me. We all let our guards down more so at home, it’s where we loosen the reigns, and that’s when and where we let the sinful part of us have just a little bit of wiggle room.
And if motherhood is exhausting, which it is, exhausted people are rarely, if ever, perfect. The truth is we can’t hide from our kids, and they’re the ones that are going to need our apologies more than most.
That means that if we are not quick to admit when we are wrong, we will be modeling hypocritical behavior, which in turn will create little Pharisees who claim perfection and demand of others what they are not willing to live themselves.
As parents, our aim aught never to be perfection. We need to model humbleness, which is to see ourselves as sinners in need of grace. The apostle Paul was integral in establishing the early church and by the authority of God was given the charge to share the gospel with all Gentile nations, yet he humbly admitted his weaknesses and sins to all. I love how the apostle Paul says of himself he is the foremost of sinners. When we see ourselves as sinners in need of grace we have humble hearts. Instead of claiming our false perfection instead are able to show our children mercy, patience, and ultimately point them to the perfection of Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
Don’t be afraid of taking responsibility for your wrongs in front of your children. When you don’t get it right, when you lose your temper, when you handle a situation poorly, be quick and eager to let your kids know you see that as sin.
Being consistent to take responsibility for our own failures will create an environment where our kids will feel safe to come to us when they also do wrong. I would much rather raise kids who know how to offer a good apology than kids who try to hide or who wrongly believe they are perfect.
Remember, truths like this are caught not taught. Our children will learn by watching our example.
So what does it look like to apologize to our kids? A good apology is to specifically state what was wrong. Being vague or overly general is not helpful and is simply a way to deflect, avoid, or sidestep. Be as accurate and as detailed as possible. Do not blame anyone else. Do not make any excuses. Do not justify. Simply take responsibility for your actions.
“Son, I am so sorry. I was wrong to yell at you like that. My words were unkind and unhelpful to you. I could have and should have been more patient.”
A good apology will always end with the question, “Will you forgive me?”
Repentance needs to begin with us as parents living by example what we hope to teach our children. I would much rather have kids who say of their parents, “My mom wasn’t perfect, but I always saw her take responsibility for her actions.” Your children will learn what it means to soften and humble their hearts from watching you do it first.
Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. He began the thesis by stating, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”
All of the Christian life is one of repentance, which is turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners. Repentance isn’t merely a one-time initial experience. Repentance is the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every moment of every day. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.
I want to encourage you to live in the freedom of not being perfect. Motherhood isn’t about an arrival or an achievement. Motherhood isn’t about having it all together and handling every situation in the exact right way. We need to receive mercy and offer the same to our children.
As parents we must continually view our lives from God’s perspective. And in doing so, what greater lesson could we be teaching our children than how to repent? Let that begin with us. Let us lead by example, showing our children who ultimately holds all authority.
That’s why I wrote my new book, “With All Joy.” I want it to offer hope and practical help in how to train up our children in the ways of the Lord — help regarding things like apologizing to our kids when we’re wrong. It won’t make our children (or us) perfect, but the methods I share will cultivate a greater bond with our children and a passionate desire to grow together in our dependence on Jesus.
My aim is to help you to be continually humble in teaching your kids, imaginative in how you train and give you encouragement to instruct and practice with the aim to build up our families with all joy.
Meg is a pastor’s wife, mother of seven, writer, fitness model and professional goldfish sweeper upper. In 2016 Meg began a lifestyle blog with a focus on real life, faith, fashion, fitness, and family with the hope of encouraging women to live purposeful, beautiful lives to the glory of God and the good of others. Her new book, “With All Joy,” is available now.