A Lesson in Humility :: Saying “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

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I’m sure it’s cliche at this point but it’s true: being a mom, we wear many hats. Not only are we moms, but we are referees, chefs, chauffeurs, motivational speakers, nurses, and teachers.

No matter how old our children are, we are constantly teaching. We teach our kids skills we believe they should know. We teach them to use a fork, to use the toilet, to ride a bike. We teach them to use a napkin, to wash their hands, to eat without making a total mess.

Not only are we teaching our kids what to do, but we’re also instilling in them how to act. Yes, I want my toddler to use the toilet, but I also want her to learn to share. Yes, I want her to learn her letters, but I also want her to say please and thank you. I definitely want her to learn to read, but I also want her to learn that it’s OK to make mistakes.

How do we teach them these things? For better or for worse, one of the most powerful ways to teach is to model. We teach our kids by how we act and how we react. Our kids are watching and listening constantly, even when we’re confident they’re not. Have you ever heard your child pick up a phrase or a mannerism that you’re confident they saw from you? Sometimes it’s something cute; sometimes it’s something that may make you blush. Either way, they’ve learned it from us!

A couple weeks ago, we had one heck of a week. You know when “one of those days” turns into “one of those weeks,” and you’re just trying to survive until bedtime? We had all been sick, off of our routine, and sleep deprived, which is often a recipe for a hard day. I was especially irritable, and my three-year-old was asking “why” one too many times.

I lost my temper with her. This definitely wasn’t the first time (or the last), but this time I realized what I did was wrong. Sure I could justify getting angry by my lack of sleep and her incessant questioning, but in reality, I was punishing her for being a three-year-old.

While my own pride was making it hard for the words to come out, I finally managed to tell her “I’m sorry.” I told her that what I did was wrong, and I asked her to forgive me. In her sweet little voice, she looked at me and said, “You don’t need to be sorry.” Ouch. I’m sure that’s something she’d heard me say before, and truth is I DID need to be sorry. My child was showing me grace that I should be showing her. I needed to admit I was wrong, and I needed her to see that.

I grew up in a house where adults did no wrong, and I had to show her that that’s not true. I had to humble myself before my child, in hopes that she would someday learn to do the same.

I’ve heard some criticism about apologizing to kids. I think some people believe that admitting you did something wrong and saying sorry to kids somehow undermines your authority. That it somehow gives kids control of their parents. I don’t believe that’s the case.

Yes, there is a hierarchy in the family unit. My husband and I are still the leaders of our family. But in a world that’s growing more “me-centered” every day, one of the best and most underrated qualities a leader can have is humility. And if humility is something I want my child to have one day, it’s something I should be modeling.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation where you had to apologize to your child?

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Katie has lived in the Columbia area for most of her life and loves calling the Midlands home! After graduating from USC (Go Cocks!) with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Katie taught at a Christian school in Lexington, where she met her husband, Chris. After having her first child, Katie traded the classroom for staying at home, where she still gets to practice her passion: teaching young children, this time her own. Katie recently had her second child, only months after returning to work as an early interventionist in the Columbia area. Katie is blessed to be able to stay at home with both of her littles, Caroline (2) and Micah (4 months). If she’s not chasing her babies, you can find her serving her church family, baking a yummy dessert, pretending to enjoy exercise, doing some sort of craft or reading a good book.

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