As a single parent of three children, I am bound to have communication challenges and disagreements with family members. I have two teenagers and a soon to be 10-year old and when arguments ensue, I have made my share of mistakes. As a father, I never want my children to be angry with me, however, I also want my children to know the difference between good and bad behavior. There is a fine line between having a mutually-respectful relationship and letting your children run out of control. Apologizing after a disagreement is an important parenting tool that requires a few important steps.
In this article, I want to share four easy steps that I learned on how to navigate family arguments and how to create an apology that is effective, sincere, and lasting with your child. Take a look at my steps and see how many of these items can help you understand the power of an apology.
I live by a rule of respect in my household. You can never give your child enough respect. What I mean by this statement is communicating to your child that you respect them and their feelings. Yes, as a father, I literally take a moment to say those very words and state my feelings of respect and make sure that they feel that the conversation is going to be safe and respectful. People can disagree and that is being human. Making a statement of respect will ensure that the ensuing conversation is lasting and heartfelt.
Sometimes waiting after an argument is important for all parties to reflect on what has happened. I feel that rushing into an apology gives the wrong impression to the child and it can often create more animosity. This is especially true when dealing with a teenager. My post-argument apology has worked better when I have explained to my teenager that both of us need to discuss our argument after a specific period of time to “cool down”. It is important to note that you do not want the cooling-off period to go overnight or for an unspecified period of time. This can represent disrespect or a lack of a priority with your teenager. Make it known that you want to talk to your child and create a resolution with him or her. Request a time and stick with it. If your child refuses to speak with you after an argument, remember to give a little time to cool-off and then write a hand-written note to your child and slip it under his or her door. Tell them that you want to discuss the argument and that you want to understand their position and to apologize for any misunderstandings.
3. Be Present.
Allow yourself to be dedicated to listening to what your child has to say. Listening is the new way of “speaking” to your child during an apology. Do not interrupt or defend yourself during the apology conversation. Interrupting will only invalidate your attempts to seek a resolution and your future dialog with your child. Show patience by listening to what is being said. If you don’t understanding something, literally use this phrase, “ So what you just said was…” and repeat exactly what you just heard from your child. This gives your child an opportunity to repeat or correct what they are trying to communicate to you with the validation that you are listening. As a father of three, I have discovered this stage to be the most effective in creating an apology after the argument. After feelings are expressed and you are listening and being present, now is the time for the apology.
I used to think that mothers and girlfriends were the only people that could sense insincerity, but I was wrong. My children can sense how sincere my apology is and I realized that if I was going to complete my post argument apology, I was going to have to be authentic and meaningful. To make sure I am in the right mindset, I remind myself what I want most, a connection with my children. In order to have a connection, you must reach out to your child, especially in an apology. Something like this, “I am sorry for arguing with you and I want to apologize for my actions. I want to have a meaningful and loving relationship with you that is built on trust, respect and love. As your father, I am human and far from perfect. I am sorry that we had an argument and that I hurt your feelings. I have also learned that I will do a better job as your father by listening to your feelings about…”
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo is the Founder and President of SingleDad.com. With over nine years of experience helping other single parents with advice, support, and resources; RJ is excited to share his company and personal mission on teaching others how to “Make Life Happen…Again!”