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We’ve all had times when we couldn’t believe the things we’ve said to our kids. Often it’s best to admit you’re wrong and say sorry.

Most parents have blurted out something like, ‘You’ll never learn!’ or, ‘Stop crying now, just stop it!’ Then we wonder how these things we swore we’d never say to our kids – that we hated our parents for saying to us – come out of our mouths!

‘A lot about being a parent is managing feelings of helplessness’, says Dr Michael Thompson. ‘The tantrums of little children make parents feel helpless. When older kids stand up to you and criticise your character, that brings up a different kind of helplessness. And when our kids make us feel helpless, our buttons get pushed, and we say things we wish we hadn’t.’ 

Often the best way to deal with it is to admit you’re wrong and apologise. ‘Kids often enjoy nothing better than for their parents to be wrong – and feel validated when their parents apologise’, adds Dr Thompson.

So instead of beating yourself up when you hear your parents’ voice come out of your mouth, take a breath and apologise.

Tell your child, ‘I made a mistake’
It is so important for an adult to apologise because it shows the child it’s OK to make mistakes and say you are sorry. When you say, ‘I shouldn't have done that’, your child will have a rock-solid sense that her feelings matter to the people who are most important in her life.
– John Gottman, PhD, author of Raising an emotionally intelligent child
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  • Last updated or reviewed 25-05-2010
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    © 2002-2006 Public Broadcasting Service.  Reprinted from with permission of the Public Broadcasting Service.