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Natural Awakenings Indianapolis

Asking Our Kids for Forgiveness: Admitting your mistakes to your children.

May 30, 2011 08:02PM ● By Doug Jeschke

As dads, we all make mistakes. I, for one, make some sort of mistake with my two sons fairly regularly. Sometimes, I lose my temper and react angrily to my kids, or forget to do things I promised I would do. I misjudge a situation, and announce an unfair punishment.

Most dads recognize that they don’t always do the right thing. We talk to our family or our friends about parenting struggles and how to be better dads. What we don’t often do, and what I find myself very hesitant about doing, is admitting mistakes to our kids.

Last week I walked into the room to see my seven-year-old crying, holding his hurt hand. Apparently my four-year-old threw a toy at him. As this is an all too common occurrence in our house, I immediately sent the guilty boy to timeout. I didn’t want to hear it as he tearfully pleaded, “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it” all the way.

As it turns out, reliable witnesses (namely Mom) reported that the toy was dropped off the side of the couch, and Danny probably didn’t even know his brother’s hand was nearby. My first reaction was to justify my response—Well, he was still careless, and someone got hurt as a result.  Therefore, the punishment was deserved.

The only problem is I knew that I would not have reacted the same way had I known the true circumstance. It was just an accident. Instead of justifying myself, I decided this was an opportunity to model taking responsibility for mistakes. I called my son out of time-out early. I told him that I realized that he was right, and that I was wrong to blame him and punish him. I asked him to forgive me.

As dads, we sometimes struggle with maintaining our authority. We are tempted to believe that if we admit a mistake, our kids will have justification to question everything we tell them in the future. In fact, the opposite is true. Our authority as fathers is not due to the infallibility of our decision making (thank goodness). Instead, our authority comes purely from our position in the family, and the corresponding responsibility to raise our kids as well as we are able.

Authority is not diminished by admitting a mistake. When I refuse to admit a mistake, my kids still know I’m wrong. They will just question whether they should trust me the next time I tell them something that they’re not sure about.

I am committed to admitting my mistakes to my kids, and asking for forgiveness when necessary. I really want my sons to know that it is ok to make mistakes from time to time. That the proper response to a mistake is to admit it and to try to make it right. And most importantly, that admitting a mistake does not jeopardize the relationship, it only makes it stronger. 

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