I received a phone call last night at 6:31 PM from his gymnastics gym. He quickly said, “Mom, I need you to come get me. I just can’t workout tonight.”
Part of me wanted to begin asking my son questions on the phone, such as “What is going on?” “How can I support you over the phone?”
I didn’t do any of this because I knew the phone call wasn’t normal Wednesday night exchange of words. So, I stopped cooking the peach chutney on the stove (and more about how the peach chutney turned out later) and drove to my son’s gym.
As soon as he opened the car door, I could tell something was wrong. Without a prompt, my son said to me, “Mom, I am really stressed right now.”
What? A million different scenarios ran through my head. The most important scenario though was his own identification of what bothered him the most in that moment.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m listening.”
This is where my son began to sound off all the reasons he wasn’t good enough to be on the gymnastics team (can’t do a pull up [and he can], isn’t strong enough in his core [hum, he works out daily and his core is stronger than all my 40+ years of working out] and he doesn’t like one of the members on the team.
So, I listened to every word he shared with me. Then I repeated back to him what I heard. I did all the things that I teach others to do (actively listen and then validate what the speaker is feeling.).
Guess what? Then he said, “Mom, I want to quit the team!”
Wait? What? This I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t prepared to hear the words, “quit.” Not after the countless hours at the gym three days per week. Not after the traveling to state and regional meets. Not after all the sweat, literally, I put into “his” commitment to the sport.
This is when my tone of voice changed. And my pulse began to quicken. And I said a lot of things that I regret. … I will save that part for you.
When I finally came to my senses about 30 minutes later, I approached my son on the couch. I asked him if I could talk with him for 2 minutes. And then I started my apology. … “I’m so sorry for the way I responded to your stress. I got caught up in my own feelings and I didn’t hear everything you were experiencing. This sounds like a really difficult situation for you. I want you to know that I support you in whatever you decide.”
And then this … “Thanks Mom. You heard me.”
Okay, so after my heart melted and I cried because I felt like I should have handled thing better (right, I am a parenting coach and expert), I reminded myself that there is no perfect parent. There is no perfect moment. There are only the imperfect moments that make us human and fill us up with love.
Being a parent is not an easy job. As parents, both you and I want nothing but the best for my children. However, in today’s fast-paced world, our children face a multitude of stressors that can impact their mental and physical health.
As parents, you are the primary role models for your children. You are responsible for their physical and emotional well-being and for shaping their personalities as they grow up. Inevitably, there will be times when you make mistakes, and in such situations, it is crucial to apologize to our children. It is also crucial to allow yourself the grace and space to recognize that you are also an imperfect human.
What research says about apologies to our children
Many parents believe that apologizing to their children is a sign of weakness. However, research has shown that apologizing to our children is not only vital for their emotional development, but it also helps build a secure and trusting relationship with them.
According to Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, children who receive a parental apology develop greater empathy towards others. When parents acknowledge their mistakes and apologize, they teach their children that everyone makes mistakes, and it is okay to own up to them. Children who grow up in this environment are more likely to show compassion towards others, making them better equipped to navigate relationships and conflicts in the future.
Parental apologies also help cultivate a positive and trusting relationship between parents and children.When parents apologize, they show their children that they are willing to admit their mistakes, which in turn builds trust and fosters a more positive and cooperative relationship. Children feel secure when they know that their parents are reliable and trustworthy and that they are not expected to be perfect.
When you apologize to your children it demonstrates that you are an imperfect being. It pulls you down from the ledge, which is a very powerful feeling for both you and your child. I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder on a daily basis (you’re welcome). Your children look up to you as role model, and it is important to show them that even adults can make mistakes. Children learn best from experiences, and when you apologize, you provide them with an opportunity to learn from others and themselves. Apologizing to your children is crucial for their emotional development and the establishment of positive and trusting relationships. It teaches them empathy and that we are all imperfect beings. As parents, you are not immune to making mistakes, but by apologizing, you create a safe and secure environment for your children to grow and learn.
In the end, the apology I offered to my son opened a door that allowed for more compassionate conversations. In the moment I said those words to him, a temporary wall went up. These walls grow stronger each time I allow myself to step into the authoritarian parenting role (and they become stronger each time I do so). However, the moment I acknowledge the human side of parenting and I (re)connect with my children at this level, then everything changes.
Are you ready to strengthen your bond with your child and also uncover the joy in your daily parenting life? Connect with me today for a complimentary Confident Parent Call.
Source: Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Penguin.