In the last post, we continued addressing how to develop internal qualities that will help us and our children out in the short-term and the long-term as we seek to parent our children effectively. These invisible skills (qualities that are develop-able like patience, meekness, kindness, peace, and self-control) can be sharpened when we wait an extra second or two before responding to our children (in particular, when we feel negative emotions like frustration or anger); when we separate from the situation and act out our most grown-up, adult, parenting self that we can possibly act out; and when we address mistakes, covered below.
- Address mistakes.
Address mistakes when you make them, and make things right when you’ve been wrong. This is tough to do if you don’t like being wrong and/or if you don’t usually acknowledge your own wrong-doing. With our children, admitting to them that we’ve made a mistake will not make them think less of us or will somehow take away the authority we want to have in our relationship with them (because, at the end of the day, we’re still the parent and our child is still the child). Admitting our mistake will help clarify what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a healthy relationship.
This, in turn, will strengthen our relationship with our children (and their relationship with us) and will make future interactions with them easier for us and for them because we are establishing veritable rules of engagement. There will be less confusion and more emotional safety in our parent-child relationship.
If you are like me and find that it’s possible to apologize 100 times a day and still not cover all the mistakes made (in other words, you’ve gotten used to saying “I’m sorry” and will do it whenever necessary), try to reserve apologies for the major things (though, that doesn’t mean that the minor things are insignificant—it just means to focus on the spirit of apologizing, which is to keep a humble heart and a fair attitude towards your children).
Apologies should be sincere and heartfelt, but they don’t need to be lengthy or over-sentimentalized. The major things as mentioned above might be when you’ve used too loud of a voice, which isn’t usually necessary in order to get a point across (like, you’ve gone overboard with the big voice and entered into the yelling/screaming territory), when you’ve said hurtful things that shouldn’t be said in healthy relationships (like name-calling, cursing, or shaming), or when you’ve done hurtful things that shouldn’t be done in healthy relationships (like being physically rough, hitting, slapping, yanking, pushing, pulling, or spanking).
A wording example is the following: “Hey, look. I’m sorry for [yelling/what I said/what I did] earlier.” That’s the main gist. Our children might say, “It’s okay” or they might say nothing and/or we might feel like continuing and saying something like, “It wasn’t okay that I said/did that. I’ll try to [stay calm/use kinder words/be gentler] the next time. Will you forgive me?” The important thing is to speak from the heart and to mean what you say. Sometimes our children need to hear more from us, and sometimes they need to hear less. The bottom line is that they are hearing—however it comes out—that we acknowledge that we were in the wrong for how we behaved—even if there are matters of their misbehavior to address as well.
When we set an example of how to acknowledge unacceptable behavior in ourselves, then our children will be more inclined to do the same for themselves. Furthermore, as we show that we are willing to make up for any wrongs we’ve done/make amends (which includes apologizing and also includes solving root issues and fixing anything that’s been broken—both actual things as well as lines of communication/heart roads of the relationship), we are proving in one of the most powerful ways how much we love our children. We love them so much that we are willing to mend the bond, as the wise words in Disney’s Brave instructed.
To review, three ideas that will help us become better at the invisible mothering (and fathering) skills (like patience, meekness, kindness, peace, and self-control) are to wait an extra moment before we respond (especially if we are feeling irritated, frustrated, or angry), separate from the situation and play the persona of a grown-up parent until you are able to come back to the situation and be the grown-up parent for-real, and address mistakes that may have been made (whether in regards to volume/tone of voice, words said, or actions done).
Being more deliberate about operating out of patience, meekness, kindness, peace, and self-control will help us grow these qualities over time so that they will flow freely out of us and into the lives of our children.
Do you find that addressing mistakes helps you develop a healthier relationship with your children?