As a man, I am always right. Seriously, I am incredible. And as a father, my way is always the best way and I always make great decisions. It’s a curse. But I have recently discovered that I am sometimes wrong and sometimes I make bad choices. Occasionally, I really screw up big time.
This morning, I lost it. The daily ‘Amazing Race’ was on to get out the door and off to school. Not entirely the kids' fault, we were running late, but they were neither helping nor moving quickly.
Today was a perfect storm of missing boots, single mittens, inside-out snow pants, elusive overdue library books, and misplaced permission slips that “have to be in today!!!”
I could hear myself uttering classic parenting lines…
“I shouldn’t have to tell you 4 times…”
“I have asked 3 times to put a hat on…”
“I only have 2 hands…”
“You are missing 1 boot!”
Tick tick tick – boom! I was yelling and it stopped the kids in their tracks….
After that unfortunate episode, the walk to school was pretty quiet. There was no hand holding and no one asked to ride on my shoulders. My treasured walk to school was funky and tense. I felt awful.
With each step, I gained more and more perspective - I am the adult and I made some poor choices this morning, starting with getting up late. I realized that these two children were not intentionally pushing my buttons. They are still just four and seven.
So I stopped them both on the sidewalk, crouched down to eye level, and in a soft voice, I apologized. It was real, honest, and I owned my part in the situation. I apologized for yelling. I explained that I was frustrated and what I/we can do NEXT time to be on time. The funky vibe evaporated and laughs began a block later.
We teach kids how to ride a bike and model proper baseball throwing technique but rarely do we model the killer important life skills, like ‘how to apologize’. Being able to apologize contributes to quality of life in so many ways; helps to maintain friendships and intimate relationships, and allows people to move on and be solution focused. Most importantly, the skills of apology build resilience and empathy.
So how do we encourage/teach our children to apologize?
If you are wrong, be MAN enough to admit it. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Don’t worry tough guy, you are not going to lose face or show weakness, if anything, you will show strength and gain respect as you acknowledge bad choices. It feels good and teaches that people sometimes make mistakes – even almighty DAD!
Have you ever overheard this conversation?
“Tell her you are sorry!”
“You apologize to your sister right now!”
“You can't make me!”
That forced apology may never come and if it eventually does, it is meaningless. Teaching children to apologize by example is far more effective than teaching them that apologizing is something you do to avoid further punishment.
Sadly, as I discover my imperfections, I am harnessing the awesome power of “I am sorry” in all facets on my life – professionally and personally. I look for opportunities to acknowledge and apologize for poor choices without explanations or excuses.
As dads and moms, we can teach/model compassion. We can demonstrate taking ownership of choices, accountability, and personal responsibility. An added bonus is that apologizing is nearly as Canadian as hockey (insert NHL lockout joke here).
I recently bumped my luggage cart into another cart in the airport. Immediately, without thinking I said, “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry.” The response I got from the Aussie was, “No problem mate, you must be Canadian, others would have moved on or said ‘excuse me’ but not you Canadians.”
So look at teaching your children to apologize as teaching them how to be MORE Canadian. Be a good Canadian role model!
Merry Christmas to you and your lucky family!
Until next time…
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