Mothers, we are human, fallible. The best thing we can do if we make a mistake is to confess to our children the mistake. Letting them witness our humanity is good for them, good for us, and good for our relationship.
Share only what is directly relevant to them
Of course the mistake needs to be directly related them. I don’t mean we confess our deep, dark secrets to our children. They don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with parental issues or adult problems (unless they are 40 themselves!) But if we’ve done something wrong: been too harsh with them, made a wrong judgement call, not been available to support them, or not shown up to an important event of theirs, we need to recognise and apologise.
To show respect for them, if we’ve done them wrong, we need to admit it when we realise it. “I’m sorry” isn’t on a one-way track. Yes, they need to learn to apply “sorry” to us and to others as they are growing up. But we need to be able to model it as well as teach the principle. As with everything, they learn from our behaviour.
Another reason to apologise to our children when we’ve made a mistake, is to build communication. Heart-to-hearts are nourishing for the relationship, bringing us closer to one another and building mutual trust.
Whatever is age appropriate
It’s important to safe guard our children’s innocence. And we need to be aware of their limitations in experience and understanding. So when we apologise, it isn’t a confession of our souls they need to hear (though that is probably what we need to do for our own release from our guilt and regret) but a simple awareness we’ve come up short and an apology.
To bear our souls may be what we need to do, and therefore we may need another adult to share that aspect with.
No excuses or explanations
We apologise for our children’s sake. We don’t need to explain or give an excuse. That’s for our benefit, not for theirs. Instead, an earnest, heartfelt, sincere “I’m sorry, I made a mistake” keeps the child free from any responsibility and gives them a chance to receive from us. If they’ve been cross or simply need to forgive, an open-ended, unconditional apology from us will give them the space to do that.
An apology is for their benefit but we benefit too
To say sorry to anyone is for the benefit of the person receiving. The great thing about an earnest apology though, is that it also releases us from our shame, guilt, and a break in that relationship.
It’s important to remember that the focus is on the child and not on ourselves when we have to fess up!