As a parent, one has plenty of opportunities to reflect on motivations and outcomes—both one’s own and those of the children we are raising.
Introspection, the willingness to look at the thinking that produced our actions and to face what is revealed, is an important part of growing into our best selves.
Disturbing and Restoring the Peace
I have found in our family that sometimes when some of us argue, unkind things can be spoken or voices might be raised. When the heat of the moment subsides we always clear the air, never leaving hurt feelings to linger around and become an additional issue.
An important aspect of restoring peace involves owning what you did to disturb it. And truly owning what you did to disturb something should not turn into a list of excuses of why your less than favorable behavior was justified. Owning what you did is a statement recognizing what you did or said that was hurtful.
Being Sorry Is Only Half of It
We model for our daughters, and continue to remind them when they fight with each other, that being sorry and apologizing are two separate stages of seeking to restore balance to a situation.
We experience being sorry in the moment of recognition that we hurt someone or disturbed the peace of a situation. The recognition is the awareness that something feels bad and thus the sensation of being sorry.
The apology is the restitution aspect, the act of restoring balance through admission that we could have handled something better. The apology seeks forgiveness for the choices that resulted in feeling sorry.
To Forgive is Helpful and More Effective Than to Accept
Just as important as crafting the apology and owning what transpired, is accepting one in such a way that produces optimal growth for everyone involved.
When we respond to an apology with the words: ‘It’s ok’ or ‘It’s alright’ or ‘I understand’, we are effectively saying that the behavior that has been apologized for was ok or alright to begin with.
A more effective response that produces the greatest likelihood of growth for both the giver and receiver of the apology is: ‘I forgive you.’ These words allow the apologizing person the room they require to grow while also honoring the feelings of the person who was hurt.
Growth for All After an Argument:
1.) Allow some time for emotions to settle down
2.) Reflect on the situation; what prompted the fallout is only one aspect of the evaluation. Get past what caused you to say or do something worthy of an apology and go further to how you want to set things right.
3.) Before parting or going to sleep, address the person(s) you hurt and apologize, include your awareness of what you could have done differently, expressing that it is your intention to take a different approach in the future.
4.) Encourage them to offer you forgiveness, rather than acceptance of your behavior.