"I'm sorry. What I did was wrong." Those words are rarely heard by anyone. They are heard even less by children. Then there is the ultimate rarity when a child hears it from his parents.
When my mom or dad tells me that, it changes things a bit. For a moment, I have to put aside my anger and my hurt and change my view toward them. For a moment, we are at the same level. I do not see them as authority figures, but as friends asking for forgiveness. The reason that I no longer see them as authority figures is because they are vulnerable. They no longer have the "parent wall" surrounding them.
It makes me feel better when my parents apologize, because they are realizing their mistakes and are righting a wrong. I see them as more than just parents, but friends as well. Apologies from my parents are rare, but when I get them, I never have any trouble saying, "You're forgiven."
What are the words that can change a teen's life?
"I apologize for ______."
"I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"
Need proof? Take a look at this teen's story:
OK, so about a year ago, my dad and I went to Nebraska – and it was a big deal because I had never been alone with my dad. So I was really nervous to do it. And we went and I don't know what happened, but I just totally lost it and everything came out. And we were in the car, which really wasn't smart because if things would've gotten bad I couldn't really escape or anything, you know.
So we talked about it and actually he apologized for everything. He started crying, and I've never seen my dad cry. He started crying and said that he was sorry that he'd missed the past 18 years of my life. There was no way he could get them back. That was really hard to do, but it was such a relief to finally know that at least he realized that he wasn't there and he realized he wasn't a dad to me at all. So, that was good to hear, especially the apology part.
The most powerful words we can say to our kids are also the most humbling – and sometimes the most painful.
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