The Power Of An Apology – Sarah Bates
The Power of an Apology
We went through a challenging stage when our second son, Liam would intentionally throw our toys over our fence into the neighbour’s yard.
We had witnessed him position himself with his chosen ‘missile’ in his hand, take aim, and use his powerful little arms to hurl it up and over the fence, followed by a quick look around to make sure no one had seen.
We would often see our buckets and balls on their shed roof and when we looked over the fence it seemed our entire outdoor toy collection was on their lawn!
The neighbours would kindly return our belongings back over to our side of the fence and then one day we realised our things were no longer being returned, so we concluded the neighbours were probably annoyed at continually doing so and were throwing the toys out.
By this time we had already explained to Liam that he was to stop throwing our things into our neighbour’s property.
However, as it did continue, one day I sternly explained that if he ever did it again I would march him to their letterbox and he would have to go on his own up their driveway to their front door and apologise for his actions without mummy being there with him.
With Liam being the more sensitive of our boys, his lips quivered as he said a gentle sorry as tears rolled down his cheeks, and from this day on he has never thrown anything over the fence again.
It is so important for our children to understand that after we have told them the specific consequence for any unacceptable behaviour, that they will know that we as parents will always be true to our word and follow through with the stated consequence if the behaviour has not improved or changed.
When we as parents have set clear and reasonable behaviour rules and guidelines for our children to obey, it is also important that they are taught to understand that if they continue to display unacceptable behaviour after being reminded or corrected for negative actions or words, then their dad and mum will always follow through with the pre-stated consequence.
For example, when we tell our boys…(please put your shoes on or go to the toilet etc…), if they decide to ignore our request within a reasonable few minutes we will repeat the request and at the same time state the appropriate consequence, such as “we will cancel that playdate”, or “we will have to cancel our walk to the park”.
Once our children realise that we are consistently true to our word by following through with the consequence, they will develop a healthy respect for us, plus clear boundaries give them a sense of security.
Matthew 5:37 Let your yes be a yes and your no be a no.
When our oldest son Harry was 2 years old, he picked off our elderly neighbour Pat’s stick-on letterbox numbers, which could not be stuck back on.
So I explained to Harry that what he had done was not acceptable behaviour and that he needed to apologise to Pat.
So he drew an “I’m sorry” card with a drawing of a letterbox on it, I wrote the words in the card, plus brought some new numbers for Pat’s mailbox, then Harry and I visited her.
Harry happily explained what he had done, apologised, and asked her if she would forgive him, which of course she did, with a warm embrace and kiss!
Pat has become not only a treasured family friend but is also one of Michael’s and my biggest encouragers as we navigate our way through this parenting role.
Harry certainly understands how important it was to admit to his unacceptable action plus the power of his sincere apology.
I explained to Harry that people will have a lot more respect for you when you are honest, even though you may feel uncomfortable with having to “own up” and then apologise.
Children are never too young for you to set realistic and clear expectations and will, in fact, make parenting a lot easier when the bar has already been set from the word go.
I know that we parents need to continually remind ourselves to respond as God Himself would respond to testing and challenging times in our children’s lives. We must choose to extend love, grace and mercy over and over again, to the same unlimited degree that our heavenly Father gives liberally to us when we sin and fall short of His standards.
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive people their trespasses (their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment), your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
And parents, I encourage you to strive to be the ultimate role model and humble enough to own up and admit to our spouse and children openly and sincerely at the times we have acted or spoken with haste, causing offence, as our children will observe and learn from our good and positive example. Getting down to our child’s eye-level and saying, for example, “Mummy’s so sorry that I allowed myself to become so angry that I yelled at you, and I’m asking you to please forgive me.” In our household, we make apologising and forgiving a 2-step process, and we encourage each other to take the time to make this a priority.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
All of our efforts and time invested in sowing these seeds of Godly discipline into our children’s spirits will not only reap an eternal harvest, but we will be rewarded for having trained our children to become obedient, respectful, honest, of good character, having Godly morals, integrity, and most importantly to have a personal love and fear (awe) of God.
So by taking the time to train our children to be willing and quick to both apologise for any unacceptable behaviour, as well as being quick to forgive others who have in some way offended us, we are actually setting them on the path to their future success and ministries in God’s service.