After witnessing hurtful interactions among your kids, which may end with one of them glancing at the other and mumbling, “Sorry,” and the other shrugging, “It’s OK.” You may never seem to get to the root of it all. You know something has to change. Here is a specific format to ask for forgiveness (i.e. apologize) when you’ve wronged someone. At first, it may seem weird and artificial and uncomfortable. Because it is. But then something unexpected may happen. Using this format allows you to gain an understanding of what it means to remove the log from your own eye before taking the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7: 4-5). AND, it may help you see how sometimes you apologize when you actually didn’t do anything wrong!
Since the first sin was committed, we have been avoiding taking personal responsibility for our wrongdoings.
In Genesis Chapter 3, the enemy deceives Adam and Eve and they eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their eyes are opened. They hastily make clothes and hide when they hear the Lord God walking in the garden. But God called to them, asking them to show themselves and giving them a chance to confess what they did. Of course, they came forth and said, “I’m so sorry! I disobeyed you! Please forgive me.”
Adam blamed God and Eve: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” And Eve blamed the snake: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Step 1: Stop. Breathe. Pray (SBP).
Step one HAS to start with YOU since you can only give from what you have! If YOU are not feeling calm and aware of your own emotions, others around you can’t possibly either. Breathe! Breathe again. It is going to be worth your time. LOOK the person in the eyes. This is to help connect with one another. Saying “Connection Creates Cooperation” is not just a cute saying that you hear at Connect Point Moms. It is actually true. When you feel connected to another person, you are more willing to cooperate with them! Think about when you feel most loving toward your husband or child or mother or best friend…it’s THEN that you want to do anything for them to help them feel happy!
Step 2: Recognize you did something hurtful (on purpose or not)
While we can’t ever “make” anyone feel remorse for what they did or said, we CAN help them see when their behavior has an impact on one another. This begins when your kids are young and you say things like: “See his face? His face is saying he didn’t like when you took that toy from him.” Or “See her face? Her face is saying it hurts her when you call her names.” This helps you understand that your actions have impacted another. And it doesn’t require your child to just “Say you’re sorry” because unless they FIRST recognize that they hurt another, they can’t possibly FEEL sorry about it! And if you “make” them say sorry without this step – it’s like teaching them it’s OK to be dishonest about their feelings.
Once they recognize the sin committed against another, they can say “I am sorry for……” and name it!
- I am sorry for throwing your book across the room.
- I am sorry for yelling at you to get out of my way.
- I am sorry for making a face when you said you didn’t like the dinner I made.
- I am sorry for … and SPECIFICALLY name what it was you did that hurt another person.
Step 3: Acknowledge that it was wrong and why
Now, THIS is the step that may help you recognize that sometimes you may apologize when you didn’t actually do anything wrong. Instead, you just made a mistake. For example, when you read aloud together, sometimes your child may mispronounce a word and you then say the word correctly. If your child says, “Sorry” you can gently help him realize that making a mistake is not wrong! He COULD say, “I am sorry for saying that word incorrectly” but you could NOT complete it with: “It was wrong because…..” because it was not “WRONG” – it was just a mistake!
Look, Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sin-free life when He walked this earth over 2000 years ago. And, He was also 100% human. Which means even He probably made mistakes! Can you imagine Him at two years old, accidentally knocking over a cup of milk (water? wine? what did they drink back then?) because that’s what two year olds do! Think about the last thing for which you told someone you were sorry. Was it something you actually did wrong? Or did you just mean, “Oops! I made a mistake?”
Here are some examples of actual reasons to ask for forgiveness:
- It was wrong because the Bible tells us to be slow to anger and quick to listen.
- It was wrong because I yelled at you in my anger.
- It was wrong because I was actually upset about something else and took it out on you.
- It was wrong because … and SPECIFICALLY name WHY what you did was wrong.
Step 4: Plan for next time
Reconcile the relationship by thinking through how the situation could have been handled more helpfully rather than hurtfully. And then say what you would do differently next time. This is an important last step so that you can have a plan moving forward. In order to learn to do it differently, you must plan it, name it, and follow through with it.
- Next time I am going to stop, breathe, and pray before responding.
- Next time I am going to walk away until I can respond rather than react.
- Next time I am going to pause to recognize what’s REALLY upsetting me before reacting.
- Next time I am going to … and SPECIFICALLY name what you are going to do differently next time.
Please, share in the comments what YOU do in your home when your kids hurt each other. Do you make them apologize? How do you feel that works for you? If you try out this format, share how that worked for you, too!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.