A true apology is one that clearly states what the adult did wrong in simple terms that a child can understand, like “I yelled at you and I shouldn’t; I’m sorry for that.” (And no excuses—for example, this is not a true apology: “I’m sorry for yelling, but your tantrum got me really upset.”) True apologies between adults and children do three important things:
- They show children how to recognize the difference between right and wrong (this is called a conscience, and comes in handy.)
- True apologies help adults build an authentic relationship with their children—one in which both people will sometimes make mistakes. Repairing mistakes (apologizing) can and often does take a relationship to a new level.
- Offering a true apology teaches children—even toddlers—how to take responsibility for their actions and how to forgive. There is power, love, and generosity in forgiveness. It is a big deal.
Every parent has a Backgammon Breaking Point—when you say something you don’t mean or aren’t proud of. But here’s the secret: While these moments are important—and they are—the way you repair your misstep is even more important.