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Do You Apologize to Your Kids?

It’s late and I find myself standing in the closed doorway of my six-year-old’s bedroom. I can hear him weeping in bed – the aftermath of a heated scolding he got about 30 minutes ago. I know I need to go in there to make things right and the only thing standing in my way is my stupid pride.

Our bedtime routine usually runs pretty smoothly, but today was not a regular evening. Activities ran later than usual, dinner was later than usual and bedtime dragged on needlessly. We are all a little worn down and tired (which seems to be our new normal!). 

My son doesn’t do well with changes or surprises to his routine. I’m still learning that he needs extra time to process and extra warnings about upcoming events. I am also trying to be more patient with his recent cluster of disobedience and his need to be reminded of our expectations (over and over). This particular night tests my parenting to the limits and the spiral of defiance seems unending. By bedtime, I just want the day to be over… my patience has run out. The last defiant deed really pushes me over the edge and I lose my ability to be rational.

I feel my face getting hot, I hear my voice getting loud and the words that come out of my mouth are hurtful. This is not my proudest parenting moment. I send my son to bed without a tuck-in, without his bedtime story and without his bedtime kiss as I storm out of his room, slamming the door behind me.

The next few minutes of reflection are tough. I think about my own upbringing and how “normal” it was to be yelled at by my parents. I still remember how it felt, how I often cried myself to sleep, how my sadness would turn to anger and how these childhood moments evolved into turbulent teenage years. I don’t want this for my son or for myself and I know I have to do better. My pride melts away as I open the bedroom door and sit down next to my child. “Daddy made some mistakes tonight. I said some things I didn’t mean. I’m sorry.”

Immediate relief comes from these words… the unspoken words I longed to hear from my own father decades ago… the words that should have come earlier… the words that mean so much right now to both me and my son. There is undeniable power in the words of an apology and I know my son understands when he says, “We both made mistakes, daddy. I’m sorry too.” I kiss him goodnight, reassuring him that tomorrow will be a much better day.


Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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