So many grown adults don’t know how to offer an apology. We are still only able, if told to, give that simple apology that out mother taught us when we were just three. “Say you are sorry” you mother tells you after you push another child, and the child responds with his eyes down, “I am sorry. ”
It feels like a punishment for the child. There is shame embedded in the apology.
And the receiver feels nothing. They still feel hurt, and they still feel misunderstood. They don’t feel reconnected.
In my life, a strong apology strengthens a relationship and can provide tremendous growth if we know how to experience an apology. An apology takes you past shame or blame. It says, “I did not know, but now I do. I hurt you, and my mistakes made you feel neglected and forgotten. My actions brought you pain.”
I want to take the shame away from “Say you’re sorry.” I want to my son to be transformed through his apologies. Sure, he is two. It will take time. His brain has to be capable of empathy first. The injuries to others will be simple in the beginning, but as time passes the events will become more complex. Hopefully, we will have the connection and trust that he can talk to me about the social conflicts he encounters. And as a parenting team, my husband will probably have more opportunity to offer counsel for these moments.
Probably the most important teaching moments will be when we teach by example. We will apologize to our son when we make mistakes. And allow ourselves to grow and deepen our connection to our son with a thoughtful and empathetic apology. When we put ourselves in his shoes and try to imagine how our actions may have hurt him, he can understand the value of a strong apology.
What we are actually teaching our children with a shameless apology is empathy. We are teaching the greatest gift for connecting with others and ourselves.