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Apology Accepted: How to Apologize to Your Child

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Have you ever been mean to your child? Have you ever lost your temper or done something that you weren’t proud of, only to see them watching you? How did you handle it?

Every now and then, I lose my patience. I’m not the most patient person, and patience is something that I’m constantly working on. Even so, when I lose my cool, I find myself torn. Do I pretend like it never happened or humble myself in front of my children?

Kids need to see that their parents are human. They need to realize that we make mistakes, too. They also need to see how we handle those mistakes. If we never humble ourselves or apologize for our actions, how can we expect them to do the same?

No parent is perfect. Apologizing isn’t easy, but when parents make mistakes, they need to show their children the right way to handle bad situations.

If you need to apologize to your child, here are some great tips to make it effective (and prevent it from happening again).

Take a time-out or breather

“Timeouts” are one of my favorite discipline tactics. Even before I read Parenting With Love and Logic, one of my favorite parenting books on discipline (read my review here), I used timeouts as part of my discipline toolkit. A timeout gives kids an opportunity to think about their actions. Most importantly, it gives them a chance to calm down.

While timeouts are great for kids, they can also be beneficial for mommies and daddies. Taking that extra ten (or three or five – depending on how much time you can spare) seconds before making a rash decision (or even to regroup after you’ve flown off the handle) is so helpful.

One of the things that I learned in Love and Logic is that it’s ok to delay punishment. Rather than screaming “I’m going to take all your toys away when we get home” as you drive along the highway, take ten seconds and advise the kids that you’ll discuss an appropriate solution when you get home. This not only gives you an opportunity to calm down and view the situation with a clear mind, but it also gives the kids a chance to think about their actions.

If you’ve already screamed at the kids or lost your temper, take a few minutes to cool down. Don’t say another word, and then discuss the situation with a clear mind after you’ve all had a chance to think.

Get on their level

This tactic works especially well in public. If your child is “acting out” in the middle of the grocery store, crouch next to him and speak softly. Your calm demeanor will help to calm him down, and you’ll both be able to discuss the situation.

If you need to apologize, getting on the child’s level helps to show them that you care. You’re not preaching from your high and mighty “mommy platform” as you dictate their every move. Instead, you’re talking to them like a person, explaining that you make mistakes, too.

Discuss the situation

Talk about what happened initially, during the event, and afterward. What triggered you to react the way that you did? If you were having a bad day and then your child refused to buckle up in the car, explain that to your child. Explain that you didn’t handle the situation the way that you should have, and what you could’ve done differently. Discuss how you could handle the situation in the future, and create a plan so that this won’t happen again. Talk about the problem using terms that your child can understand.

If the situation ever occurs again, talk to your child about what happened the last time. Does your child remember how both of you behaved? Does he remember the solution that you agreed upon? By talking through the situation, you’re teaching your child critical thinking skills. You’re helping your child to see cause and effect, and how they impact others.


When you apologize to your child, be sincere. Show your child that you care and how you will try to avoid acting like that again. Explain to your child that people make mistakes, but it’s important to learn from them.

Are you raising your children under the “do as I say, not as I do” motto, or are you trying to model the behavior that you want your children to have? What works for you? Leave a comment below!

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