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Sticking With Your Teen: Having to Say You’re Sorry

By Focus on the Family
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The most powerful words we can say to our kids ("I'm sorry") are also the most humbling - and sometimes the most painful.

“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.”
—a teen

What are the words that can change a teen’s life?

“I’m sorry.”

“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.


Helping families thrive with the support of friends like you.


Adapted from Sticking With Your Teen: How to Keep From Coming Unglued No Matter What, published by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 2006 by Joe White. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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