Making mistakes is part of being human. Often it is not the mistake that matters, but what follows. Do we acknowledge and apologise? Do we make amends? Or do we expect everyone to forgive and forget though we may not deserve it? It is from the heart of religion that no human is infallible save the Prophets who were protected from sin. This means that all of us are prone to make mistakes. This includes parents.
Unfortunately, acknowledging mistakes and transgressions against our children is something that does not come easy to many parents. Some may even hold the erroneous belief that apologising to their children will somehow lessen them in their eyes. Some may also find it shameful to admit that they can make mistakes, just like their children. These are essentially flawed understanding since it is the very rawness of honesty and openness that builds a solid foundation in parent-child relationships. There are ample benefits in acknowledging our errors and mistakes to our children, some of which have been highlighted below.
- Learning through Modeling
Since children learn through imitation, your apologising and acknowledging of your shortcomings will model to them the concept of taking responsibility. When we apologise to them, they comprehend that they should also apologise when they fail others, including us.
- Teaches Empathy
Seeing you apologise will essentially strengthen their empathy neurons. This is because children are learning to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and see the need to apologise.
- Teaches Honesty
In a climate where every man is for himself, the concept of apologising will teach children the importance of honesty. It is not befitting for a believer to cover up his errors, but rather to acknowledge and repent from them is part of purifying one’s heart. Allah (Most High) says in the Qur’an, “Indeed he succeeds, the one who purifies it (the heart).” [91:9]
- Teaches Humility
To acknowledge one’s mistakes and to apologise is an act of humility. This is because it is ultimately an arrogant act to feel that you do not need to apologise to some. Thus, when you apologise to children, you teach them the value of being humble, and how it is not a negative thing.
When, How & Why you should apologise to your kids
1. Your child thinks it’s a big deal
Whatever has happened, if your child has been affected and thinks it is a big deal, then it is. Children do not always understand situations the same way we do. Apologising, regardless of how we perceive the event, shows the importance of empathy and that we understand how they feel and acknowledge it. It also encourages them to voice their feelings and not hurt in silence.
2. If you overreact
Children test boundaries, and they will push our buttons. It is part of their growth and development. Unfortunately, many parents often overreact to seemingly petty scenarios. There could be many reasons for this including work stress, or sleep deprivation. While the cause must be addressed, if it happens, then the first step is to apologise. We should not only say sorry but also not justify our reactions which would essentially render the apology meaningless.
3. If you are wrong
Humans are prone to err and parents are no exception. We may sometimes do things we are not proud of. Be quick to say sorry when you act in a way that you would not want your child to emulate.
4. Don’t be arrogant
Sometimes we may be too angry to apologise, and we need some time to gather our thoughts and control our emotions. The fact is, this also applies to children. They often also need time to reflect on their behaviour. Taking time to calm down and say sorry when we are ready to model emotional control and intelligence. We put our pride aside and do the right thing.
5. Builds trust and love
Apologising to our kids shows that they can trust us with their feelings. When a child is angry, they feel that you breached their trust which makes apologising crucial to rebuilding it. An apology also shows that you love them and respect them.
We are all fallible and will err from time to time. However, it is how we respond and acknowledge these errors that shape us and our relationships. This also applies to our relationships with our children. If we wrong them by raising our voices, overreacting, or not giving them due time and attention, then we must acknowledge our mistakes and endeavour to make things better.
Doing this will teach our children the importance of being honest, humble, and kind. These are essentially all traits that every believer should aim to cultivate and nurture within themselves. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “He who has in his heart even a seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” (Muslim). Thus, teaching our children humility by way of modeling this behaviour will help them in their journey towards eternal bliss, inshallah.
It can help to have open conversations with our children and essentially create a family “road-map”. If parents are overreacting and children are getting upset, then after acknowledging errors and apologising, we can openly discuss how such scenarios can be prevented in the future. All this will help foster deep and secure relationships between parents and children which will benefit both into adulthood and beyond.