how to show someone you are truly sorry

4 Steps to Show Your Kids You’re Actually Sorry

One of my kids, who will remain nameless, has a hard time admitting fault. Recently, I had the chance to model taking ownership. I overreacted about a small thing and turned it into a big deal. It was an opportunity to say sorry and to model the steps of showing I’m sorry to my kid.

There are good and not so good ways to say sorry. It’s crucial we understand how to apologize as dads if we are ever to teach it to our kids. Do you know how to show someone you are truly sorry? Here are 4 steps for how to show your kids you’re actually sorry.

1. Take full responsibility.

When you start to apologize, it’s natural to inject words like  “if,” “but,” or “maybe.” But you’re on the wrong track when you say “I’m sorry if I hurt you” or “I’m sorry for yelling, but you made me mad.” The moment you say things like this, you’re taking the blame and shifting it away from yourself and onto the other person. To avoid injecting “ifs” and “buts,” practice saying your apology out loud before you say it to the other person.

When you specifically admit your wrongdoing, you show humility that your kids may not otherwise see.

2. Admit specifically.

When you specifically admit your wrongdoing, you show humility that your kids may not otherwise see. It’s easy to be general and gloss over specifics. But we show care when we are precise in admitting what we did wrong. Learn to say, “I’m sorry, son; I overreacted back there and I shouldn’t have said X, Y, or Z.” Pointing out specific wrongdoing shows you’ve thought about it, you care, and you’re taking your apology seriously.

3. Get to the ask.

The next step that makes an apology on point is simply asking for forgiveness. Here’s the clincher: After you ask, close your mouth and don’t say any additional words. Leave the answer to the other person. You want the offended person to respond and take ownership in their forgiveness. You’ll say, “I am sorry for what I did and for how I hurt you. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” That’s it. You then leave it up to the other person to forgive or not. You are at his or her mercy.

4. Change your behavior.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” We renounce our wrongdoings by changing our behavior. It’s one thing to ask for forgiveness and accept the consequences, but if this is all you do, you’ve only said some words. There must be a plan of action to stop the wrong behavior and replace it with better behavior.

Maybe it’s a simple change that can be made immediately. It may be something like anger or how you speak that needs more of a plan and will take time. But make the plan and stick to it so the person you apologized to sees the improvement. A good plan will address what, when, why, how, and with whom you will complete changes: “The next time I am tempted to overreact, I will step away, pause, and cool down, or even talk to my wife about the situation before I blow up at my kid.”

Sound off: What do you say when you need to say you’re sorry?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Is there anything you think we’ve been avoiding that we need to talk about?”