I was tucking my son in bed recently when told me that he wished I was more patient with him. Ugh. What a gutshot! It made me feel like, if not the worst dad in the history of the Western Hemisphere, definitely in the top 5. The kicker was that I'd been patting myself on the back earlier that night for staying cool when all three of the kids had a choreographed meltdown.
I asked him if he could think of a specific time when he believed I was being impatient with him. He could think of several and proceeded to share them in vivid detail. The first reaction I had was to get a little defensive inside; to justify and give an explanation for why I hadn't been patient during those times. But then I realized two things - 1) the rational explanations wouldn't help and 2) it wasn't really about me. My son felt hurt. And I had a chance to help him.
Asking for forgiveness is never fun. We have to face the fact that, whether we meant to or not, we hurt someone we love. I've met some parents who don't believe they should apologize to their kids; they're worried that admitting wrong doing will somehow undermine their parental authority. Not so. Admitting we aren't perfect (which our kids figured out ages ago) is a great way to model humility. Asking for forgiveness is a great way to repair relationships. And it also teaches our kids the skills to repair relationships too.
John Gottman, a marriage therapist and researcher, has done some great work on what makes a healthy marriage, and by extension, a healthy relationship. It's a myth that happy couples don't fight. I've seen plenty of couples who don't fight because they avoid each other like the plague. Happy couples, Gottman says, are the ones that - when they fight - can repair the relationship. So being able to show our kids the value of admitting when we're at fault, and seeking forgiveness is one of the most important lessons we be able to teach.
Today, take a few minutes to reflect on whether there is anything you should apologize to your child for, and gently approach them to ask for forgiveness