When NOT to Apologize to Your Kids


Last weekend, I came across a link to an article regarding the importance of apologizing to your kids. I favorited it to read today. After discovering that I had not actually clicked the cute little red heart Twitter icon, I performed a general search for “apologizing to your kids,” but couldn’t find the article in question. I did, however, find a handful of other articles on the same topic. Skimming through a few, I recognized a general theme for why we should apologize to our kids. To me though, it’s all rather elementary.

You see, I made sure to raise my daughter in a way that held her accountable for her actions; therefore, I lived the same way. Whenever I felt I had behaved in an unfair way, I sat her down (once my head was on straight again) and apologized. Quite honestly, it was never difficult for me. Thanks to my actions, I watched a very strong bond of friendship and respect grow between us over the years.

Well, today I’d like to tell you to STOP apologizing to your children.

I think I just heard a disgusted gasp come from a mother of three in Pensacola, Florida right now. Hold the phone there Marjorie, I’m not finished. Hear me out and read the following scenarios:

  • Child screaming and throwing a tantrum because she wants an ice cream bar: “I’m sorry Sally, but you already had one today.”
  • Child throwing things because he can’t go and play with his friend next door: “I’m sorry, Bobby, but we’re going to have dinner in a few minutes.”
  • Child refusing to go and clean up the mess he made: “I’m sorry, Mikey, but if you don’t tidy up your mess, I’ll have to throw away those toys.”

Why do you keep saying you’re sorry? As a Canadian, I know the world accuses us of being too polite, but I guarantee you that parents all over the world are doing this as well.

We use the term far too loosely, in general, but what I’m getting at today is that we need to guard our language—not just the word “sorry.” The words you use to deliver messages to your children are actually very important if you want to have a happy and respectful home. If you learn to use words properly, you will come to realize that raised voices to get your point across, will become few and far between. There are two words that are grossly misused with children, and they are:

  1. Sorry
  2. Asked

Sorry:

Why are you sorry for saying no to something? As long as you are being fair and levelheaded, why on earth would you be apologizing? Cut “I’m sorry” right out of your vocabulary unless it’s for a valid apology for something you’ve done.

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Asked:

“Billy, I asked you to go and brush your teeth.”

Do you see where you went wrong here? Think about it.

By “asking” the child to do something, you are allowing them the right of refusal. “Asking” is an indicator for optional participation. “Telling” is a non-negotiable command.

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“Billy, I told you to go and brush your teeth.”

If you raise your children knowing that when they are “told” to do something, it is non-negotiable, then you will never have to pander to their adolescent forms of bargaining again. We’re not all raising politicians, so the need for bartering is an unnecessary waste of time and energy for all parties involved.

I was once hired by a family to get their children under control (mainly their daughter) while they were out of town. It was one of the most emotionally draining experiences of my life, but after a week of pulling a “Nanny McPhee” on them, it was a complete success. Well, it was a success until the un-unified parents and maternal grandmother turned it all back to crap again.

Maybe you can see a theme there too… It wasn’t actually the daughter who was broken—it was the inconsistent behavior of the adults that made her who she was.

Anyhoo… when I first arrived in their home, I sat those children down and gave them my spiel—in a very loving, respectful, and calm tone (I also did this with my stepsons before I moved in with my husband):

“I am a mother, but I am not YOUR mother. Nor will I try to be your mother. I want you to understand some things about me though:

  1. I do not raise my voice.
  2. I do not repeat myself. So if you ask me a question, please open your ears to receive my reply.
  3. If my answer is “no,” then trust that I have given it good thought and am not just saying no for the sake of denying you something. If I say “no,” that is my final answer, and you need not waste your time with begging, pleading, or throwing a fit.”

Those three things eliminated many potential conflicts and worked hand-in-hand with my method of “offensive parenting.”

As much as I would like to launch into a rant on labels right now, I’m going to save that nugget for next week.

You probably don’t realize that you are subliminally sabotaging your parenting skills by misusing words like “sorry” or “asked.” Language, and how we communicate, are so crucial in the upbringing of our children, but many parents take it for granted.

If you’re already knee-deep on a path of verbal self-sabotage, stop now and deal with the growing pains of change. Although, just letting it ride may be easier in the short term, we are lacking quality people in our children’s generations. Our kid’s generations are a group of narcissistic, self-serving individuals who have a completely skewed view of entitlement.

Time to break that chain and start parenting again. Let’s start pushing real men and women out of the nest. If ever there was a time that we needed to bring family values and respect back, now is it.

Tag! You’re it!

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