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How to Apologize to Your Child When You're Wrong

Published February 13, 2013        by Sarah

Maroon Surreal 300x257 How to Apologize to Your Child When Youre WrongIt’s a simple fact of life – everyone makes mistakes. Whether your child spills an entire glass of milk in an attempt to hit his sibling or you break a toy because you didn’t watch where you were going as you tried to grab your cell phone before it quit ringing, in families, mistakes are everywhere. You likely expect your children to apologize for their mistakes. The real question, though, is whether or not you apologize for yours.

Why You Should Apologize

Much of parenting is about modeling good behavior, and this is just as true with apologies as it is with anything else you do. You want to teach your children the importance of admitting that you’re wrong, and while you may feel that it makes you look weak in the eyes of your child, the truth is that level of weakness is important for children to observe in adults. What’s more, though, is that it’s an easy way to diffuse the situation, particularly when the child is older. Kids know when you’re wrong. What they don’t know, though, is why the rules are different for you. Why shouldn’t you have to apologize if they do? The reality is that meaningful apologies help to create deeper bonds between parents and kids.

The Process

An apology to a child may seem like a daunting task, but it’s really fairly basic. You can’t even begin to say you’re sorry until you take the time to realize you’ve done something wrong. Take a careful look at the situation and decide where things went wrong. Would it look different through the eyes of your child? Once you understand that you should apologize, start by accepting responsibility for what you did. It’s essential that you don’t create excuses for your behavior. Your apology has to be complete. Ask your child to forgive you, then follow the apology up by reviewing the situation so both of you know how to approach it should it happen again. Keep in mind that you should never do any of this while you’re angry. You’re only likely to make an insincere apology or reignite the situation. Moreover, though, some of these steps may need to be modified depending on the age of the child. You may have a very different conversation with your three-year-old than you might with your teenager. If it's a big whoops, it's okay to offer a small kids gift to show your sincerity. But don't make it a habit to buy your child something everything you make a mistake.

When to Apologize

Wondering if there are situations when you shouldn’t apologize? There are probably cases when an apology is not necessary, but in general, you should apologize any time you know you did something that was wrong or you did something that may have hurt your child’s feelings. Keep in mind, however, that an apology cannot be used as a tool. It should only be used with sincerity. You cannot effectively use your apology to make your child feel guilty for his or her actions or because you expect to receive something in return, like an apology back to you.

You will probably say that you’re sorry thousands of times within your lifetime. Don’t hesitate to make a few of those apologies to your children.

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