Red is one of those people who make up words. When he was about 14, he started saying “slorfty” instead of “sorry” and it caught on. Now we all say it.
(We say a lot of weird things, actually, and it garners us some odd looks when we're out in public. As a matter of fact Lance and I continue to use words coined by little bitty kids even though the kids in question are now in their 20s. “Kidspeak” is probably another entry unto itself.)
Anyway, my point is that apologies have their own vocabulary in our house. It's important to teach your kids to apologize and make amends when they've done something that hurts someone else.
Something many parents don't understand, though, is that it's just as important for us to apologize. Even Millie and Mollie aren't perfect; we make mistakes, we lose our tempers and sometimes we're just plain wrong. How can we expect our children to take us seriously if we don't acknowledge what we've done and make amends ourselves?
The other day I did something very rude; I laughed at something Jack told me. It can be difficult for me to remember that Jack is nearly an adult; he's a junior in high school, it's true, but he's also the youngest and the most easy-going. He was talking about his future and said something that seemed out of character for someone who was – surely? - only about six years old; and I laughed. It was the end of the conversation.
Thinking about it later, I was aghast at what I'd done. A teenager was confiding his hopes and dreams to me, and instead of taking him seriously I'd laughed at him! I immediately called him to apologize. Fortunately (Jack being Jack) he forgave me readily and we chatted for a while before he had to get back to whatever he was doing.
I was lucky. A thoughtless move like that can do a lot to damage a child's trust in you. He may decide that it's not safe to confide in you any more; you may lose all credibility in his eyes if you set yourself up as infallible. He knows full well that you are not.
If you pull a bone-headed move like the one I did (and you surely will), apologize. It won't weaken your authority or your credibility; in fact, it will model the behavior you are trying to teach your children. Just say something like, “Honey, I'm sorry I was so cranky this morning. I didn't sleep well and I had a headache, but that's no excuse for yelling at you the way I did. Please forgive me.”
Then later – when they apologize to you for doing something bone-headed (which they surely will) – you will have the opportunity to model forgiveness. Tell them, “I understand and it's okay. You are very brave to apologize,” then give a hug and forget about it. Try not to nurse a grudge. Tomorrow is another day, so forgive, forget and start over again together.
And . . . slorfty, Jack. You're the greatest.