Imagine this scenario: You're driving in crazy traffic after just picking up child #1 a few minutes late. Child #2 will be officially waiting outside, by himself, in the cold if you don't get across town in 7.5 minutes. As the driver in front of you pauses at the yellow, making all of you come to a halting stop, your backseat rider starts yelling, "Mom!" repeatedly. Narrowly missing the bumper in front of you, as you frantically turn around to see what's wrong -- child #1 is holding up an empty box of snacks, "I'm still hungry!"
That's when I might let the f-bombs fly. Maybe even call someone in the car in front of me names. Names that are wildly inappropriate and that my child #1 in the backseat would get in major trouble for saying. While I wouldn't let any of those names fly at child #1, let's say that happened also. Yikes.
What's a parent to do when you're the one that needs to have a time-out?
When a parent wrote to Miss Manners asking the Miss if it wasn't okay to maintain the illusion of ultimate authority by not apologizing to a child, Miss Manners pointed out that "children's security does not come from believing that their parents are infallible. It comes from observing that they are reliable, loving, and fair."
I would add, you also need to know the difference between a sincere apology and bad behavior with "I'm sorry" repeatedly thrown on top.
As soon as your child can talk (and hit), you teach her those two magic words, "I'm sorry." Whether you couple it with a time-out, a naughty step, or a thinking chair, the goal is to make sure a child recognizes what she did was wrong, and acknowledge that fact. As a parent, you have to acknowledge that fact as well and ask for forgiveness. As both you and your child will learn, apologizing after doing something wrong, once, goes a long way. Apologizing after the fifth, sixth, or twentieth infraction is insincere at best, abusive at worst.
It's a tough lesson to teach, and a tough one to learn. And sometimes, just like with a child who is out of control, a parental "I'm sorry" is not enough. If you find yourself on the wrong end of the tantrum one too many times, look into local parenting classes where you can learn strategies to help you keep your cool.
Do you say you're sorry to your kids?
Image via Finding Josephine/Flickr