My Dearest Son,
After you left the house that morning, an overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame consumed me. When you woke up, instead of offering you a smile and a hug to start your day off, I jumped right into an outburst about you not having done the dishes and the trash the night before. From there, it was like an avalanche of nagging about anything and everything that jumped into my mind. Looking back, you must have thought I was a raving lunatic. I feel ashamed that in that moment, I acted more like a bully than a loving mother. There is no excuse for my behavior. It hurt me in the pit of my stomach to know that I caused you pain. I can still see the look of confusion and deep sadness that was written all over your face. Of course, in the thick of it, I couldn't see that, and I just continued with my tirade.
Regardless of what chores you forgot to do the night before or that morning, my reaction was completely uncalled for. I took out my anger on you over whatever frustrations plagued me at that moment. Whatever malaise I was feeling inside spewed forth like venom and bile at your feet.
What I am trying to say is that I'm sorry. It is my hope that you can forgive me and show me grace, something I should have extended to you that morning—grace to be human and make mistakes without fear of gut-wrenching retribution. I hope that you know that I love you with all my heart. I try every day to make sound decisions that are in your best interest, teach you right from wrong, be a positive role model and influence in your life, and show you unconditional love.
Again, I am sorry.
With all my love,
The Expert Weights In
Here are some tips from psychotherapist Anne Toles, who works at Watershed Counseling Associates in Jackson (1635 Lelia Drive, Suite 100, 601-362-7020), about asking your child for forgiveness.
Acknowledge. When a situation arises where you harshly discipline your child, acknowledge what happened. It starts with the parent. You have to self-process—figure out the reason behind what you did.
Say "I'm sorry." Once you have taken time to acknowledge and calm down, you can talk to them about it. Go to your child and admit your fault, tell them that what you did and how you acted was wrong.
Tears are okay. Some counselors may feel that crying in front of your child is not good because it may make them feel guilty for upsetting you. Toles doesn't agree. "If you get emotional, don't hold back your tears," she says. "Let them know that tears are okay, and it's a normal part of healing." However, she stresses that the parent must communicate with their child why he or she is crying. Make sure the child knows that he or she is not responsible for your emotions and are not responsible for fixing you.
Age Appropriate. When talking to your child, make sure that you tailor what you say to fit with the child's age. The biggest thing is to let your child know that you love them and that there is nothing they could do make you love them less.
Consequences. If you find yourself in a situation where the child's actions warrant a consequence, admit your fault first. Let him or her know that your reaction was wrong, but what he or she did will still need to be addressed.
Role of the other parent. If you are the other parent witnessing what happened, you should refrain from stepping in. Unless the offending parent is scaring the child or there is a safety concern, intervening could be harmful. If one parent makes a habit of stepping in and taking up for the child in these situation, the child will form an alliance with that parent. It is best to wait until the offending parent has calmed down and both adults talk behind closed doors about
Daily Struggles. If you and your child experience daily struggles, you may want to consider professional help. Talking to someone can help you take a step back and put things in perspective.
Toles recommends, "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves" by Naomi Aldort (Book Publishers Network, 2006, $18). The book focuses on disciplining children without the use of scolding, punishing or threatening. The author introduces the SALVE communication formula based on the nonviolent communication work of Byron Katie. The "S" stands for self-inquiry, where the parent must separate his or herself from his or her own issues, fears, and desires, and give up the compulsion to be in control or make the problem better. "A" consists of shifting your focus to the child's need. The "L" stands for listening with an open heart and open mind. In the "V" stage, you must validate your child's emotions. The author points out that during this stage, you must be very careful with what you say. Lastly, you move to the "E," where the parent empowers the child to resolve their emotional upset.