hurt feelings

4 Things to Do When You Have Hurt Your Kids

“He’s NOT our dad! He’s a drunk and a coward, and he is not MY father!” Those were the words a character named Zach said to his brother in a movie called Run the Race. Their mother had died and their father was too heartbroken to care for his sons; instead, he turned to alcohol. The father eventually attempts to mend the relationship, but as you can imagine, the son’s hurt feelings keep him from giving his father another chance. In that situation, what would you do to win your child back?

One thing is sure in parenting—we are going to hurt our kids in some way. Maybe not as badly as the dad in the situation above, but even with the best intentions, we are going to mess up. However, if we don’t deal with them in a way that brings healing, wounds can have lasting effects. If you have hurt your kids and need to bring healing, do the following 4 things.

1. Listen to them and understand why they’re hurt.

What do you want most when you are hurting? You want people to understand and empathize with you. You want your feelings validated. Although it is difficult to listen to how deeply you’ve hurt your kids, you need to hear it. You need to understand exactly how you hurt them and why. Make sure to communicate that they have every right to be hurt.

2. Own it.

After you gain the understanding of their hurt feelings, own what you did to cause them and leave it at that. This is not a time for you to give “yes I did that, but…” answers. You may feel like you’ll lose authority with your kids if you admit a mistake. You won’t. If anything, you’ll gain more authority to speak into their lives. Don’t feel tempted to “get back” the upper hand or have the last word. That will produce the opposite of healing.

3. Apologize for it.

Be sincere and vulnerable in your apology. Do your best to empathize. Think about the circumstances where you have felt the same way. If you don’t mean it, your kids will know it. Depending on the depth of their hurt feelings, you may need to apologize more than once. Be willing.

4. Right the wrong.

Nothing says an apology is sincere better than taking action to right the wrong. Changing your behavior moving forward is a great place to start. If you have been overly critical of your child, you need to focus on positive encouragement. If your words are too harsh, change your vocabulary. And if you missed an important event of your kid’s, then you need to do whatever you can to make sure you are there for the next five. This is your opportunity to show your kids what maturity looks like.

Sound off: How do you initially react when you hurt your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have I done anything lately that has hurt you?”