You have to protect your children, and sometimes that means saying no. What if you also say you’re sorry?
It’s important to respect our children as individuals and learn how each one ticks. We need to show them how much they are valued. We can ask for and receive their permission to protect their hearts. We can pay attention to our tone of voice and speak to them kindly, keeping it level and secure for them. We can explain our anger to them, especially when it’s really ourselves that we’re angry with.
And we can tell them, “I’m sorry.”
The temptation is to say, “I’m the mom and I said so,” or, “I’m the dad so it’s my way or the highway.” If you’re tired and it’s been a long day, it’s so tempting to just tell them, “If you don’t like it, too bad.”
It’s tempting, but that stuff never works. Ever. It gets kids to shut up and do what they’re told, but it doesn’t build trust.
I’ve done it to my kids. I’ve been impatient or weak and I’ve told them, “Hey, too bad. You’re going to do it.” And they’ve done it. But later, I didn’t feel good about how it went down.
I don’t need to wound my kids. I want to be able to say to them, “Let’s talk about this.” So if I’ve been short with them, I go to them. We sit and talk. We recover trust.
I’m the parent, so I’m going to get my way. My way is the right way and I know it. But there’s nothing to be lost from having a conversation with my kids, and everything to be gained.
So I talk to them about things. I tell them why my way is best. I explain that they’re thinking from a child’s perspective, while I’m thinking from a grown man’s perspective. I tell them I want them to trust me because I know what’s best. I help them understand that I make the decisions I make because I’m protecting them.
I’m making my sons better, and I’m watching them become leaders. I’m so proud of them. So I tell them, “I don’t want you to be wounded over anything. I want your heart to remain intact and pure, and I want us to have a relationship.”
We sit there and we dialogue. We talk it out. If we started out angry, the anger disappears before we know it. I’m not angry with them, they’re not angry with me, and we’re having a conversation.
I ask them if they have any resentment towards me over what happened. If they say yes, then I apologize. I say I’m sorry.
It doesn’t matter if I was wrong or right. If my kids have pain or resentment, then I say I’m sorry. I’m not saying they were right. That’s not what the apology is for. I’m saying, “Look, I’m sorry that I affected you that way. You know that what I said was right, so help me understand. How can I say it so it won’t hurt you?”
All I have to do is ask. They’ll tell me. And then I can say, “Okay, next time that’s what I will do. I’m sorry you felt so hurt.”
Should you say you are sorry when your kids are hurt? No question! Absolutely, yes, you should always say, “I’m sorry.” If you want a relationship with your children, you’re going to have to understand this. Tell them that you care about how they feel. Help them understand.
Parents are flawed human beings who are raising kids. We are going to mess up! When I make mistakes I have to be a dad, but I can’t stop being a flawed human being. So I have to go to them and say, “I’m sorry.”
I tell them when I don’t agree with what they did. I tell them when I don’t like that they did it. But if I do not handle it correctly as their dad, I own it. I tell them, “I’m sorry.”
This is not easy. Parenting is not easy! But it’s dialogue, and I love having conversations with my kids. This is how we heal wounds and build trust, and it’s awesome.
I am the author of To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball (2013), and my second book is in the works. Visit my Huffington Post page here. I blog here. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter: @JeremyAffeldt.