Why You Need to Apologize to Your Kids
Philippians 2:1-11 is a beautiful passage of Scripture. It contains a call to humility followed by a poem highlighting the humility of Christ as our God-turned-servant/savior. It reads:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The ultimate reason we need to practice and model humility in our homes is because it is through our humility that we exalt Jesus rather than ourselves. Jesus is our perfect example of humility and we are to become more like him. Jesus was God. He didn’t make mistakes, he didn’t sin against his friends and family. So if he displayed the ultimate humility towards us, who had no means of salvation until the end of his earthly ministry, we should certainly do so for our children.
We’ve talked about several ways to practice humility, but one of the most important I’ve found is being willing to say “I’m sorry” when I have wronged my kids. By doing so, I show them I’m submitted to God and his authority, I’m demonstrating that I can readily admit I’m not perfect, and I’m hopefully making it easier for them to apologize to others.
But apologizing can get muddy. My tendency when I need to apologize is to make excuses for my behavior. When I first began apologizing to my kids, I found myself saying things like, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was really tired and it was frustrating that you weren’t listening to me.” But this isn’t humility and it’s not a real apology. When I take a step back and think about when others have apologized to me that way, it doesn’t feel like they are sorry at all. It minimizes their responsibility and ignores my pain. It’s an attempt to save face rather than exalting the other person. And when I do it with my kids, it only communicates to them that I’m more concerned about their opinion of me and their obedience than my relationship with them. Instead of modeling humility, I’m modeling selfishness. (Watch this week’s video for two true stories of apologies I received and how they impacted my relationships)
So how do we practice apologizing with true humility? Here are a few things to remember:
Apologize at your first opportunity.
Keep it short.
Validate how it may have made them feel.
Ask for forgiveness.
Listen without being offended.
Ask God to help you do better the next time a similar situation arises.
A more effective way to apologize using the example above would be, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I imagine that made you feel embarrassed or scared. Would you please forgive me?” Then, allow your child to respond, even if admitting you did hurt their feelings makes you uncomfortable. Bring that discomfort to God and let him teach you to be more like him in the next time.
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