We have all been there, stressed, exhausted, frustrated, rushed, with a million items on our to-do list when our child spills their milk, asks for a snack, or simply wants to play with you.
You suddenly snap or yell at them. You blow up and without intending to, you’ve unleashed your emotions on your innocent child.
That release may feel good for a second but is immediately followed by regret, guilt, and shame.
As parents, it is easy to forget we are human. We are not perfect, and neither are our children. It is ok to make mistakes.
But what we do and how we handle the situation after we make a mistake is most important, especially when we have children.
Making a mistake does not make you a bad mom, but it may feel like it. So, how do you apologize for being a bad mom to your child after you lose your temper?
Apologizing for being a bad mom is hard, but knowing how to offer a proper apology and how to reconnect with your child will ensure your mistake becomes a teaching moment both for you and them.
How to Apologize for Being a Bad Mom
Admit You Were Wrong
Admitting your mistake is the first step in offering a proper apology. Do not defend your actions or offer an excuse disguised as an explanation. And don’t use “but” to explain yourself.
This is the moment you take full ownership of what you’ve done, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you. By doing so, you are also showing your child you can be vulnerable.
According to Brené Brown, “vulnerability is not a weakness; it is our greatest measure of courage.”
You are not perfect, you’ve made a mistake and your child, no matter their age, needs to hear this.
You are teaching your child accountability and vulnerability by admitting you messed up. Own it.
Acknowledge the Hurt or Damage You Have Caused
Empathize with your child by acknowledging how you have hurt them with your actions. Show them you understand how you have made them feel.
Your focus should be on your child and their feelings at this moment, not yours.
Apologize for Your Mistake
Say you are sorry to your child for your actions.
Apologizing to your child for hurting them teaches your child they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
It shows them that having a bad day, or a bad moment does not excuse disrespect or bad treatment of others. And it shows them it is also not ok for them to take their emotions or frustrations out on others either.
Furthermore, offering a genuine apology for being a bad mom teaches children that parents or grown-ups are not above apologizing. Adults are not too important to apologize.
Promise your child to do better next time. The best apology is to make changes in behavior.
Showing your child you will make every effort in being better next time will allow them to trust you. Again, no one is perfect, but the goal is to show you are trying.
Discuss with them how you may do better next time.
As your child, if there’s anything they think you can do to make things better. Maybe they’ll want to talk about their feelings or how your actions affected them.
If your child wants to talk about their feelings about the situation, do not become defensive. Listen to understand and be there for them.
Do not offer gifts to make things better. They are impersonal and show no genuine love or concern for the child.
Ask for Forgiveness
Describe how remorseful you are for what you have done. Express the guilt you feel and ask for their forgiveness.
Remind yourself that forgiveness comes in stages and your child may not be ready to forgive you immediately. Do not force your child to forgive you right away.
When feelings have been hurt, it is important to give your child space to process what has happened. Everyone is different and processes events and emotions in a variety of ways.
You can follow up with them at a later time to see how they are feeling.
It is also important to forgive yourself for your mistake or outburst. Even if your child forgives you, you may still feel shame and guilt for what transpired.
It is your job to come to terms with what you did or didn’t do. Your feelings are your responsibility and not your child’s. Do some reflection, visualize a different outcome, and talk to someone about it if needed.
Remember that punishing yourself is not productive and will not take away what you’ve done.
Thoughtful Ways to Reconnect After a Mistake
Offering an apology will not automatically restore your connection and harmony with your child.
However, there are a few thoughtful things you can do to reconnect with them after you’ve made a mistake and have apologized for being a bad mom.
Allow Each Other Some Space
Everyone reacts to disagreements or uncomfortable situations differently, including children. After you’ve had an outburst or made a mistake with your child, it is important to allow a moment for tempers to simmer down.
Taking yourself away from the situation for a few deep breaths, to get some fresh air, or to simply find a quiet place, even if it’s in the closet, will show your child how to manage their emotions.
Giving each other space will allow you to assess the situation and collect yourself to address the issue.
Once you are both calm, you can start your apology.
Do a Self-Assessment
While this does not involve your child directly, it will impact the way you handle future situations.
It is tempting to blame and shame yourself for your mistake and for not handling a situation in the best possible way.
However, spiraling into a black hole of guilt and shame does not allow for self-growth.
Instead, think about the situation calmly and ask yourself what you were feeling that led to the situation. Were you frustrated, tired, hungry, disappointed, impatient, or angry?
Figure out what your unmet need was at the moment of the issue. Did you need order, predictability, peace, food, or simply a quiet moment to relax?
Doing this will allow you to feel compassion for yourself. It does not excuse your actions, but it explains why you did what you did or didn’t do.
Visualize a better outcome. Instead of reliving the bad moment, try imagining a better outcome, a better reaction. Picture what it would have been like if you had noticed your needs and reacted differently.
As you visualize a different outcome you will create new pathways in your brain that will be readily accessible the next time you react in the heat of the moment.
By doing a self-assessment and visualization, you can figure out what you can do differently in the future, and this impacts your child directly.
Once you’ve apologized to your child and they’ve forgiven you, ask them for a “do-over.”
You can ask to re-do the situation and tell them you can do better. Show them you can react in a more gentle, positive manner.
While you cannot change the past, you can show them better ways to handle the situation and that you can choose to change your behavior.
This is also your chance to be playful and light-hearted. Laughing together will help you get over the ugliness of the moment you’ve just had.
Be a Role Model for Compassion
Children are like sponges. They learn everything from us and are constantly watching and listening to our reactions.
When we make a mistake and we beat ourselves up for it, it teaches them to do the same.
However, if we acknowledge that we are imperfect and that mistakes help us grow, children will learn to accept themselves for who they are and help them develop a growth mindset.
If we don’t make a big deal about our mistakes by talking negatively about ourselves, and instead focus on fixing things and reconnecting with our children, we will model self-love and acceptance despite our mistakes.
They will learn to love themselves and others even when they mess up. And they’ll know they don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Additionally, they’ll feel less defensive when they make a mistake.
Showing compassion for ourselves translates into compassion and acceptance of others. Therefore, when we embrace our imperfect selves and chose to reconnect quickly, they learn to do so as well.
How we handle our mistakes teaches our children what to do when issues happen and how to make things better.
Snaping, yelling, or blowing up at your children can make you feel like a bad mom. With the pressures of parenthood, even the calmest parent can make a mistake.
You may wonder what to do and how to apologize for being a bad mom immediately after lashing out at your children.
How you handle the situation after your mistake is more important than the shame and guilt you feel.
Therefore, formulating the proper apology and finding thoughtful ways to reconnect with your child will ensure your mistake becomes a positive teaching moment for both of you.
At the end of the day, remember you are an imperfect human and can make mistakes. It is how we solve things and the connections we make that matter in the end.