The Beauty of Raw Apologies

By Tania Johnson | February 27, 2024


Take a minute to think about the last time you apologized to your child. What comes up for you? Perhaps it is hard for you to even recall an experience of apologizing to them. Or perhaps, you apologized alongside giving a lecture.  

Many adult apologies go something like this  “I’m sorry I yelled, but you’ve been pushing my buttons all day.” 

Read that again.

 It is an apology that feels controlled, passively aggressive, and inauthentic. I think it’s important to make space for all of the feelings that come up with apologizing to our child. Many adults were never apologized to when they were a child, so it’s hard to do naturally with their own children. There may also be fear that apologizing to our child takes us out of the leadership position. Some of us may want to apologize, but just find it downright difficult.

Here’s the thing:

When we are vulnerable with our children, we lean into connection with them. As Dr. Gabor Mate says “vulnerability is absolutely essential for growth.” When we see our children and they see us- as the imperfectly perfect human beings that we are- we connect in the most human way possible. The message to our children is     “I am messy AND I am going to keep showing up every day in the bravest way possible”. Isn’t this the essence of emotion regulation?

The next time that you yell, use sarcasm, or give the silent treatment and distance yourself from repairing with your child -listen to what your body tells you. When you are not aligned with what is important to you and how you want to be in the world,- your head will pound, muscles will ache, or your stomach will twist. There is a different way forward that heals the child within us and the child in front of us. This is where compassionate discipline can be helpful.

 Get down on their level, stand close by, and with warmth say “ I am sorry I yelled. It is not okay for me to scare you with a loud voice. I’m going to work on keeping calm.” Your child may melt into your arms or they may yell back “You are the worst dad”. Your apology is not contingent on their response. You are the adult. Take a deep breath and respond “Dad’s sorry.”

Think of a world where children were apologized too, where we raised a generation of children who don’t need to recover from their childhood. This is the entire philosophy of the Institute of Child Psychology– join as a member were you have access to scripts ( to help you through situations just like this), printables, over 80 workshops and more!


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