The Saving Grace of Saying I’m Sorry

It happens most frequently late in the day, when my nerves are frazzled, my patience wearing thin. Sometimes, it can be something so small that finally sets me off; other times, bigger things don’t just nudge, but full on throw me over the edge of my sanity. Then it happens. I say something ridiculous, something I cannot possibly mean. It might be an insult, or a punishment that isn’t deserved. It might be an unkind demand or an exaggeration or an unfair assumption. Oh, how I hate to hear those careless words flung about, landing on unsuspecting children who are taught to believe what I say. But this? Oh, how I wish they won’t believe me when I slip up and say words like this.

I am not a perfect mother. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I say things I don’t mean. Sometimes I am unfair. And that’s hard.


We are not expected to be perfect. God doesn’t expect it. And our children don’t expect it either. What to do when we mess up? Turn to your children, take a deep breath, look them square in the eye and tell them you’re sorry for messing up.

I’m sorry for saying those words.
I’m sorry for yelling when I shouldn’t have.
I’m sorry for being unreasonable.
I’m learning just like you.
Let’s start over and try again.

There are so many ways to say I’m sorry. It’s an ill-conceived notion that parents should always be right, that to apologize shows weakness, that parents should be able to act one way, and expect children to act another. And yet, sometimes I think we do hesitate. We hesitate to say those simple words to our kids. I’m sorry.

How can an apology help us feel joy? When we want to be good mothers, and we feel like we fall short, I think we often have the tendency to beat ourselves up a bit. We wallow in our thinking that our kids deserve better, that we aren’t good enough, will never BE good enough. When we fail to apologize, tension remains in the air, feelings remain hurt, attitudes remain unchanged – both ours, and those of our children. But oh, how the healing balm of forgiveness can change all of that. Apologies, especially with small children, are most assuredly followed by kisses and hugs and a general improvement of the atmosphere. Apologies free us from the guilt of not being good enough.

In the New Testament, Christ teaches that we should become as little children. What is so wonderful about children that we should become as they are? Children forgive. Children love unconditionally. They will forgive us when we make mistakes, and they will love us more for be willing to admit it. And a bonus? Apologizing to our children when we make mistakes models the kind of behavior we would like to have reciprocated, yes? Why should our children ever apologize to us if we aren’t willing to do so ourselves? I believe that humble parents and humble children will do much to contribute to a joyful home.

15 thoughts on “The Saving Grace of Saying I’m Sorry

  1. Patty Ann says:

    I have found that saying "I'm sorry" goes a long way toward changing the parts of me that I don't like. It is humbling to admit my faults. I also think it shows my children that I really do love them enough to admit when I am wrong. Love this today. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Laura@livingabigstory says:

    Oh, thank you so much for this post — I so needed this today! I have been realizing so much lately that I am not who I want to be as a mother, that I was to be a more "joyful" mother. And here this is this morning. Is this a series that you have been doing (or are starting)?

  3. Cynlin says:

    I'm far from a perfect mother, I try to remind my children that I to am learning on the fly. I have said I was sorry more than a handful of times to my children, and I am sure I'm going to have to say it more as my son enters the high school years. God give me the strenght to get through this. πŸ™‚

  4. Tobi says:

    When I honestly admit my mistakes to my children and apologize I can instantly feel the difference. It's almost as if this boulder of anger, guilt and shame has been lifted off of my shoulder. Everyday I feel unworthy of them and because of that I strive harder to be a better Mother.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I am always saying sorry to my kids when I loose control. Just this weekend, my oldest son didn't listen to me and threw an apple in the garbage his little brother would have eaten. So I spanked him. Not very nice of me as his mom. After all it wasn't that important. Then as I was saying sorry my youngest son decided to join in, but I wasn't done talking to my older son, so I pushed my younger son aside and he fell down…Anyways, saying sorry is something of a habit now, but hopefully its because I'm improving, not getting worse. πŸ™‚

  6. M-Cat says:

    You are dead on right. And I find that even with my adult kids, still saying "I'm sorry" when I have crossed the line or made a wrong assumption goes a long way to keeping our relationship warm and open

  7. Randy,Sarah,Zanna, Jossilyn says:

    You don't know me. I found this blog through my friend Kristen's blog. I've never posted before because, like I said, you don't know me and I don't know you. However, I loved this post so much I wanted to copy and share it on my blog. It was just what I needed to hear today! Exactly what I needed to hear! I'm always apologizing to my children over silly little things I do. I got upset with my 3-year-old for peeing her pants yet again today. Out of habit I said sorry. That's right. Out of habit. I belive this is why I feel like I don't receive joy by apologizing because it's said so often, so quickly that it's like saying toothpaste or shoes now. Means nothing. I love how you point out being specific for the mistake made, and that's what I will work on from now on. Not just saying sorry, but letting her know why I was wrong and that I'll work harder.I hope you don't mind if I share your wisdom with the few followers I have. You say it so perfectly.Thank you!

  8. Jeanine Byers Hoag says:

    Great post, Jenny! I appreciate hearing that it's not just me who says the unkind thing or is sometimes unfair. And what grace to be reminded that we aren't expected to be perfect!!I followed you here from Momma Made it Look Easy. Congrats on being featured.Jeanine

  9. Heather says:

    I think it is so important to remember that your children don't expect you to be perfect.I also think it is important for children to realize that no one is perfect. And no one needs to be perfect.Stopping by from Momma Made It Look Easy.

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