Admitting our faults is challenging, especially when apologizing to our teenagers. If you’re new to saying sorry to your teen, then keep reading.
When and How to Sincerely Apologize to Your Teenager
Admitting when we’re wrong can be a challenge, especially when we have to apologize to our kids.
You might think that admitting a mistake makes you look weak as a parent, or that it gives your teenager an excuse to ignore your parenting.
However, revealing your missteps in parenting actually makes teens respect you more as it puts you on a more level playing field.
If you’re new to the idea of saying sorry to your teen, the tips below will help you prepare.
Finding the Right Tone
The first thing you want to keep in mind when apologizing to your teen is how you sound.
For an effective apology, you want to be as sincere as possible. Any hint of sarcasm or dishonesty will take away from your apology, and your teen is smart enough to tell when you’re being disingenuous.
If you’re not sincere, you might come off as rude, and your child will be less willing to forgive you or feel close to you.
If you have trouble finding the right words, one thing you can say is, “I don’t know the best way to say I’m sorry, because I don’t know the best way to parent you when it comes to ______. But I’m trying, and I’d love your help to make things right.”
If you’re looking for more inspiring ways to connect with your teen, check out this list of helpful dialogue tips.
Don’t Say “But”
Like being insincere, you want to avoid using a word like “but” because it takes away from the meaning behind your apology.
If you want to say sorry for yelling at your teenager and you say something like, “I’m sorry, BUT you were really acting out and deserved some discipline,” it completely invalidates the purpose of your apology.
Using a word like “but” makes it seem like you stand by your previous actions and only want to apologize for the sake of it. A true apology shouldn’t have a “but.”
Admit That You Aren’t the Expert
Part of a good apology is admitting that your teenager is the expert on being a teenager.
Unless you are a specialist in teenage behavior, you should avoid acting like you know best.
A lot of times, apologies can go wrong if you, as the parent, are talking down to your teenager by acting as the ultimate authority.
Instead, you can try saying, “You know best about what it’s like to be a teenager. I’m just observing and trying to help, but the truth is, I don’t know exactly what you’re going through. I’m sorry that I made the wrong choice as your parent. If you can share what it’s like to be 15, I’ll try to support you better in the future.”
Show that Making Mistakes is Normal
This tip to a better apology is great because it also teaches your teen how to apologize.
No one likes to make mistakes, and it’s even harder to admit them. Although, if you remember to say, “We all make mistakes,” or “We are all works in progress,” it shows your teen that you aren’t pretending that you’re perfect.
In this way, you’re providing your teen with an excellent example that nobody is perfect and that it’s critical to apologize when your mistakes affect those around you.
This example might teach them more healthy ways to regulate their emotions and not let feelings get bottled up, reducing their chance of engaging in risky behavior.
Hopefully, this lesson will rub off on your teen and encourage both of you to apologize more frequently, as you both acknowledge that neither of you can be perfect all the time.
Make a Plan for the Future
Your apology will carry more meaning if you use the conversation to make a plan to improve.
After admitting your wrongdoing, you might want to ask your teen, “How can I change, so this doesn’t happen again?”
It’ll mean a lot to your teen that are you seeking their advice and want to make a positive change.
You could try to work out a future strategy with them, such as, “Next time we start to fight, let’s walk away and come back in five minutes, so we don’t say the wrong thing on accident.”
Coming up with a solution shows your teen that you’re not only sorry for what happened, but you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Your teen will appreciate this and might respect your parenting style even more.
Now You’re Ready
These tips for a better apology will help you prepare what you want to say to your teen. It can be difficult to admit your mistakes, but doing so can only improve your relationships with your kids.
This was a guest post.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.