Two minutes after you see a blur of Oliver and Emma scream through the hallway, you hear a major crash in the living room. Immediately, you start berating the kids for running in the house. You head into the room, still yelling, only to find the cat sitting on the end table where the lamp once sat. You turn around to find your kids staring at you with hurt faces. What do you do? We all make mistakes, and we need to teach our kids – by our own example – to own up to those faults, even when it’s really embarrassing for us. Or even when we feel provoked by something our kids have done – like when we finally lose it after listening to our kids whine about something for 10 minutes. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and be sincere with your apology. These tips can help the next time you need to apologize to your kids:

  1. Own your feelings and take responsibility for them. It’s okay to be frustrated and it’s okay to be upset sometimes – we tell our kids this all the time. Just remember that how we respond to those feelings isn’t always okay. It’s not okay to yell or slam doors. Your kids are watching – so don’t react in a way that you would not want them to emulate.
  2. Connect the feeling to the action. Explain in your apology why you felt the way you did. What happened that caused you to react that way? Just don’t use this as a chance to place blame (“I’m sorry I yelled, but I wouldn’t have hurt my foot if you had picked up your cars.”)
  3. Apologize for the action. Point out which action of yours was inappropriate and explain why. Your kids will learn that they can’t act that way, either.
  4. Recognize your child’s feelings. Show them that you understand they were hurt or scared. If your action was sparked by something your kids did or didn’t do, make sure they understand that your affection is not based on them meeting your expectations.
  5. Share how you plan to avoid this situation in the future. This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves. Be specific in what you aim to do to keep from blaming others or yelling, for example.
  6. Ask for forgiveness. This can be as simple as “can you forgive me?”
  7. Focus on amends and solutions Offer to discuss and work out solutions to the issue with your child.

Put these steps together, and you have an apology that would go something like this: “I felt frustrated when you weren’t ready for school on time, but it was not okay for me to let out my anger by yelling at you. I’m so sorry I yelled. I’m sure that was scary and hurtful for you. I need to work harder to use my calm voice, so I put sticky notes around the house to remind me. Can you forgive me? I’d like to talk about how we can fix this problem and move forward.” Remember, apologizing to our kids when we make mistakes, as difficult as it may be sometimes, sets our kids up to recognize their own shortcomings and helps them learn to apologize as well. It also shows them it’s okay to make mistakes. Kids that don’t experience much failure have trouble knowing what to do when problems do arise – they don’t have the confidence to take risks, they won’t courageously face their problems head-on or roll with the punches. In the long run, making mistakes and learning from them gives our kids more self-confidence and resiliency. And one way they can learn this is by watching their parents take responsibility for their own mistakes and learning from them.

About the Author

Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.