Saying sorry is not a crime. I am so glad to say that! Because if it is, then I will be in and out of the jail already.
I am certain that all of us said sorry to someone at least once in our life. “I am sorry” is uttered after the fact of a mistake – only be sure that the mistake does not constitute a crime. Or else, jail will really be an option.
And parenting is no exception. As parents, we set rules that we want our children to observe. We instill in them values that we want them to develop. When they fail to act up according to those rules or they behave in a way contrary to those values, we train them to acknowledge their mistake. We impose discipline when necessary. Finally, we tell them to practice the habit of saying sorry.
We teach them to say sorry to a sibling after fighting over a toy. We tell them to say sorry to another child whom they might have hurt while playing. We make them say sorry to another adult for behaving in a disrespectful way. We train them to say sorry to Dad and Mom when they do not listen. We want them to say sorry for every mistake that they commit with a promise not to do it again.
But how about when parents say sorry to their children? As parents, we need to admit our mistakes that may tend to impact the overall development of our children. No one is flawless when it comes to parenting for the simple reason that we are imperfect individuals. No matter how much we know about parenting, we are prone to commit mistakes that might hurt and affect our children.
How many times have we raised our voice while scolding our children? How about the time when our “reflex” resulted in carelessly hitting our children? Or maybe the cold treatment we give our children after they misbehave?
Parents must not be afraid to apologize to their children when the situation calls for it. For one, how can we teach our children about the importance of saying sorry when we do not model it to them? It does not make us less of a parent when we say sorry to our child. On the contrary, learning to say sorry to our young ones is a display of authentic parenting.
More importantly, saying sorry helps them in their spiritual development! Most parents are not aware that this very act has spiritual benefits for our children. Let me share with you three reasons why saying sorry to our children is actually rearing them towards Godliness:
1. Saying sorry is an act of humility – if there is one thing that I want my children to learn in their relationship with God and with others, it would be humility. The Bible says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The Apostle Paul also tells us that the mind of Christ is one of humility – considering others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Parents who are not hesitant to say sorry to their little child demonstrate humility. And demonstrating humility to our children is showing Christ to them.
2. Saying sorry teaches our children to forgive – children will be trained in the discipline of forgiving others when parents are not afraid to say sorry for their mistakes – our children do not have much of a choice but to forgive us anyway!
Jesus said that when we have an offering to God, we must first be reconciled with someone who may have anything against us (Matthew 5: 23-24). Jesus also teaches us that we have to forgive as we are forgiven by God (Matthew 6:14-15)
Who does not want to be forgiven? Forgiveness is the very reason why we admit our mistakes. We want to experience forgiveness. Not condemnation. Not judgment. And I believe that our children want that too when they grow up! Especially if forgiveness would come from God.
3. Saying sorry is an expression of our dependency on God – at the end of the day, all of us are dependent on the grace of God in rearing our children.
When we say sorry, we confess that we are unable to do anything good apart from God. We affirm that it is only by God’s help that we can be worthy parents in spite of our imperfections. We also want our children to learn to depend on the grace of God when they grow up. We want their life’s foundation to be about Jesus and Him alone.
When saying sorry to our children becomes necessary, do not hesitate to do it. This is not to say that we must not exert effort, with God’s help, to improve as parents. Of course, we must do everything that we can to correct our mistakes. But it starts by acknowledging those mistakes. When we do it, parenting becomes less of us and more of God.