The Power of Apologizing to Our Children

Crystal Cox

Have you ever felt the urge to defend your reaction to your children? “They pushed me over the edge! I’m just so stressed out. I wouldn’t act this way if…” are phrases we use to justify our behavior.

An apology requires humility and admission of failure. Apologies are always difficult, but there’s a different tension when you recognize you need to apologize to your children. It can cause us to hesitate or even withhold from them.

We want to do a great job parenting, but an apology acknowledges we have not been the parent we want to be for the children we love so deeply. We could also fear losing authority or respect. If our child knows we’ve messed up, will they still think of us the same way or even believe they need to obey?

If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, we will realize many times we have not treated our child as God would treat us. In the pain of this realization, we must choose whether to give into fear and excuses or believe in the power of apologizing to our children. 

Apology models repentance. 

When we apologize, we model repentance before God. Showing that our wrong behavior to others is a sin against God is a necessary part of following Jesus. Our apology agrees with 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Apology provides practice in forgiveness. 

When we model asking for forgiveness, we give our child an opportunity to practice forgiveness. Their willingness to forgive builds confidence their sin can also be forgiven. When they forgive us, they practice forgiving others. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Apology shows humility. 

In apologizing, we teach our children how to humble themselves when they know they need to offer an apology, too. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).

Apology directs behavior.

When we apologize for behavior, we are marking it as sin. We show our child the behavior is not pleasing to God, and direct our child away from it. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Apology strengthens communication. 

Our children will learn they can safely come to us when they mess up if we have shown them how to admit sin. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Satan tries to convince us to be quiet and let the moment pass — that apologizing will backfire. The truth is: apologizing to our children has the power to build a strong foundation so that their relationship with us, with others, and with God will grow.

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