“I’m sorry, I made a mistake.” Many parents are wary of apologizing to their children. They confuse it with a sign of weakness or a lack of authority. But what does a child learn when we apologize?
Apologizing means leading our children by example. It means recognizing with humility and frankness that we all make mistakes, but that there’s always the possibility of recognizing our faults and repenting for them from the heart.
Therefore, asking for forgiveness, far from being a sign of weakness, is a perfect occasion to teach a great lesson.
Saying, “I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?” is an act of good sense. But why is it so difficult for children and sometimes grownups to ask for forgiveness? According to Pope Francis, “God never ever tires of forgiving us! … The problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask, we grow weary of asking for forgiveness.”
How and when should we ask for forgiveness?
There are many reasons why we may have to ask for forgiveness from our children on occasion—for example, when we forget something that we’d promised them and that they were very excited about; when without realizing it we offend them in some way, even though for us it may seem insignificant; when we lose our temper; when we haven’t been sufficiently attentive to one of their problems.
Jesus, through the Lord’s Prayer, teaches us, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How important it is for us to learn this aspect of forgiveness from an early age! Knowing how to forgive is just as important as asking for forgiveness.
As parents, what’s the best way to ask our children for forgiveness? Being parents requires transmitting certain authority, but that doesn’t mean we should keep ourselves distant from our children. It’s important to learn to recognize mistakes on both sides so that we can help each other and feel that we’re a team, a family.
On the other hand, it’s important to ask for forgiveness as soon as possible and to explain the objective reasons for which we apologize.
Do not blame others for our actions
When we apologize, we need to avoid watering it down. We must especially avoid placing the blame for our actions on our children themselves. Even though we may have done something we regret because we were somehow provoked or upset, or made a mistake due to various other circumstances, in the final analysis our actions reflect our own free decisions.
We simply have to recognize that we’ve made a mistake and ask for forgiveness. In this way, we also admit that we aren’t infallible.
This will help our children learn to savor God’s mercy. What really dignifies us is to know how to repent, ask for forgiveness and try to make amends.
God, through his mercy, makes it possible for good to overcome sin. Where sin abounded, grace abounded.
When we consciously and honestly ask for forgiveness, what we think and feel in that process becomes manifested in our way of acting. Every sincere act of repentance implies the attempt to correct the mistake committed and to prevent it from happening again. This requires a change in our person.
Asking our children for forgiveness makes us coherent, ennobles us and promotes our children’s self-esteem. It makes them see that their feelings are important.
But most importantly, if we ask for forgiveness, we’ll be teaching our children about redemption and letting go of resentment. Our example will help them to ask for forgiveness and to forgive those who need it, and there’s nothing more extraordinary than to drown evil in an abundance of good.