Why You Need To Tell Your Kids You're Sorry
It's bloody hard apologising isn't it? If you're anything like me, that word can sometimes stick in your throat like a coconut swallowed whole. Sometimes, the very act of saying it makes me want to dry heave because it admits vulnerability, it admits flaws and that's not something I'm historically very good at. I don't think it comes naturally to any of us and yet we all, at some point or another, will lose our shit, we will behave badly, we will lash out - it's human, it's inevitable. As parents, sometimes that crappy outburst will be directed towards our kids (who isn't a bit of a dick when they're sleep deprived?) and that's ok. What's not ok is avoiding what I call 'the repair'; you can't forget to say sorry to your kids. I get it. They are tiny. You are the boss. Yeah, sure, sometimes you unleash seven shades of shit on them but what do they expect? You're tired, stressed, plagued with guilt and insecurities about the amount of balls your juggling and painfully aware of the ones you see smash on the ground. Of course you're going to lose it when they scream because you gave them the blue plate instead of the pink one or you asked them to get their shoes on. It would take a saint to put up with that on 39 minutes of sleep so it's easy to forget that even though they did push all your buttons and even though they were displaying strong asshole tendencies...giving them the hairdryer treatment probably wasn't the best way of handling it.
But - that's what happened. Let's not dwell on it. It wasn't your proudest parenting moment. Don't waste time and energy feeling guilty and over-compensating with treats and TV. It's happened before, it'll happen again. You know that, but hang on, do they know that? Do they understand that emotional outbursts are normal or do they just think they're scary? Do they realise that you're only doing what they do when they're tired or it's a Tuesday or do they think that's how adults deal with kids who are naughty? Because for a long time, I think my kids thought that adults just shouted at them when they said something they didn't like. I wasn't doing 'the repair'. I was telling them half the story...and it wasn't the good half.
'The repair' is all about the fix up. It's about going back to your kids and saying, "I'm sorry I lost my shit (other words are available). There's no good excuse for me screaming at you like that but sometimes it's hard to be patient when I'm very tired. I'm sorry I took it out on you." 'The repair' shows kids that it's ok to not get it right all the time - that's normal and human and nothing to feel terrible about - but it also shows them that we need to put it right when it happens; that they need to own it and take responsibility for it and apologise for it.
I've been doing this with my kids for a while now and it's had a huge impact not just on our relationship but also on the way they deal with conflict and apologising. I grew up in a house where sorry was a dirty word. To this day, at 37, I'm not sure I've ever heard my mum say sorry and I know that's where I get my reluctance from too. I don't want my kids to learn the same thing. Apologising may feel like a weakness or a submission but it's actually the opposite. It's a show of strength and character and if I have to suck up a few sorries so that my kids can be better than I am...I'm ok with that.