Should I Force My Children to Apologize when They Don’t Mean it?
Does it ever feel pointless to force your kid to apologize to one another? The script is predictable and almost always frustrating for me as a parent.
Me: J, what do you think you should say to B?
J: Sorry B.
Me: Sorry for what?
J: Sorry for stepping on you.
Me: B what do you say?
B: I forgive you
Me: Ok, now hug
(J and B connect briefly with limp arm the move slightly forward toward the other person)
It feels a little pointless to make my kids say things that they don’t mean and that don’t come from the heart. I don’t want to teach my children to be dishonest about their feelings, but I do want to teach them repentance and forgiveness when it comes to hurting other people.
Someone once gave me the advice to look for opportunities to humble myself in front of my child and model repentance in real situations where I was the offender. Here’s what it looked like in our house on a bad day last winter.
The bedtime routine wasn’t going well. J was bothering his sisters, spilling bath water all over the floor and testing me to see how much patience I really had. He found out. Sweet, calm, beautiful mom disappeared and ugly scary mom arrived. I yelled and grabbed and made my maternal point. Yes, discipline was needed in that moment, but not in the highly emotional way I issued it. Later after I calmed down, I said to J, “Mommy shouldn’t have treated you like that. I am sorry that I yelled at you and I’m sorry that I grabbed you out of the tub so roughly. Will you forgive me?”
That was really hard for me to do! I do not like admitting I’m wrong to anyone, especially my children. I want to maintain my “God-like” presence before them and I want my “rightness” to never be in question. I’m guessing those feelings are pretty similar to what my children feel when I force them to apologize.
Kids who are mature enough might also need to hear that they are forgiven for their inability to be 100% sincerely sorry for their sins against others. God is so loving and so good, that he washes us even of our hypocrisy!
My son forgave me and hugged me. I got to tell him thank you and I got to talk about how thankful I was to have a God that is always patient with me, and never loses his temper. God is my perfect parent and as well as his perfect parent.
As Christian parents, we not only want our kids to see how sad our own sins make us, but also how relieved we are to have God grace. And not only does grace relieve us, but it also dazzles us. How fantastic it is to experience the love of God alongside of our children.