Apologize to Your Children When You Make a Mistake

When you apologize to your children, it's a way of conveying to them that mistakes are human and that there are ways to try to remedy them.
Apologize to Your Children When You Make a Mistake
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 02 July, 2023

When you apologize to your children, you’re letting them know that they deserve respect. You’re also recognizing that we all make mistakes, regardless of our age or role. It doesn’t matter if we’re kids, grown-ups, parents, children, bosses, or employees. It’s an act of humility, empathy, and humanity.

Parents often convey to children the importance of taking responsibility for their mistakes and apologizing when they hurt someone else and are sorry for it. Therefore, when faced with inappropriate behavior toward a sibling, friend, or classmate, we demand that they come forward to apologize. However, when we wrong our children, we often fail to ask for forgiveness.

Do you undermine your own authority when you apologize to your children?

It’s often believed that acknowledging a mistake in front of children undermines the authority of adults, making it difficult for them to obey when limits are set. For this reason, many parents are unwilling to apologize to their children, as they believe they’ll lose respect. They see this act as a sign of weakness and understand that it would compromise the hierarchical bond between them.

Therefore, some adults believe that asking for forgiveness implies lowering one’s own value, when in fact, the opposite is true. Taking responsibility for one’s faults makes one a better person. Therefore, saying the word “sorry” in order to try to repair the damage you’ve caused won’t make them respect you or value you less. Rather, they’ll understand that you’re a human being and that this means that you also make mistakes.

A mother apologizing to her young daughter.
Asking for forgiveness means being sorry for the wrong done, even if it wasn’t intentional or premeditated. It’s about honestly feeling that you were wrong and that your child deserves an apology.

Apologize to your children as an act of love

It’s wrong to believe that someone who loves you doesn’t hurt you. People who love each other also hurt each other. However, someone who’s able to apologize is someone who’s not afraid to be vulnerable, human, and real. In fact, apologizing to one’s children is a way of transmitting a significant value.

At the same time, forgiveness needs to be accompanied by concrete actions that attempt to restore the mistake. For example, if you’ve apologized for yelling at them, it’s essential that you watch your tone of voice next time. Also, if you regret having to cancel the trip you promised them, you can invite them to an outing alone on the weekend.

Values are transmitted by example

Demanding that a child learn to apologize without leading by example is quite unfair and inconsistent. It’s like shouting at them to stop shouting or not to talk badly about their friends behind their backs when you complain about your own friends. For example, you can say the following: “I want to apologize for not keeping my word, I really regret it.” In this way, in addition to showing humility, you teach them how to ask for forgiveness.

It’s important for the child to see that by doing so, you don’t feel weak or inferior. Instead, asking for forgiveness is of great value. Also, it shows, through your own behavior, that you care about how the other person feels.

Forgiveness is a significant social bonding tool that your child can incorporate from a young age and then carry into adulthood.

A father kneeling down to ask his son for forgiveness.
Both the lack and excess of apologies reflect an irresponsible and unempathetic attitude. In addition, it can give a confusing message to the child.

Don’t abuse forgiveness

On the other hand, we must know that abusing this word isn’t a good idea at all because it will make your child lose confidence in you. Like any other person, they’ll expect that, after a few apologies, you won’t repeat the same mistake. Otherwise, the message will be very confusing for the child and they’ll feel a lot of disappointment.

Regret must be present

Apologies without genuine regret mean nothing. Even worse, they leave a bitter taste in the recipient’s mouth. In order for this act not to lose its value, it’s essential to resort to it only when you’re truly grieved by what you’ve done and regret the consequences. In addition, the indiscriminate use of the word “sorry” causes it to lose its meaning, so it’s appropriate to use it on occasions that truly merit it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Giannini Iñiguez, H. (2008). Del perdón que se pide y del perdón que se da. Atenea (Concepción), (497), 11-22.
  • De Martini, S. M. A. (2019). Paternidad y perdón [en línea]. Postprint del artículo publicado en: Revista Valores de la Academia del Plata. 2019, 8. Disponible en: https://repositorio.uca.edu.ar/handle/123456789/13332

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.