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4 Words Every Child Needs To Hear

Photograph by Twenty20

“You’re acting so naughty! Mommy is very, very frustrated!”

I went on and on and on. We had just left Home Goods in a whirlwind because my son would not pull it together. Upon entering the store we had a conversation about how to behave while shopping, but no. Nooooo, that just wasn’t possible for my little dude. He had to pull his sister’s hair, screech/sing/laugh loudly, stand in the cart, and beg for toys in the whiniest voice you have ever heard. While buckling my crew into the car I raised my voice while hashing out each episode of the day. Because it had been a day and Home Goods was just the icing on the cake.

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But in the end, he was only four. And a new four-year old at that. A four-year old boy acting how most four-year olds do. And I was 30. Acting how a grown-up mama SHOULD NOT act. He didn’t deserve the tired, frazzled mom yelling in the car. He deserved patience, guidance, and boundaries.

And most importantly, an apology.

Grown-ups are big, powerful people. In our children's eyes we're often seen as perfect, the ones who have all the answers. But, lo and behold, we make mistakes. Moms screw up and yell. They forget things and they need grace. That's why I've made it a point to say, "Will you forgive me?" to my kids when the situation warrants.

Four little words that can make all the difference. Four little words that level the playing field, focus on love and turn the day around.

We’re all trying. He knows I am, I know he is.

Our day called for a full circle apology. The whole shebang. We arrived home not a moment too soon and as I unbuckled my son, I held his hands, asked him to look into my eyes and told him, “Mommy is so sorry I yelled. That was a wrong choice. Will you forgive me for the mean, loud words I said?”

He scrambled into my arms, gave me a bear hug and whispered, “I’m sorry too. I will be kind and listen. I’m trying. I’m trying.”

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And isn’t that the ticket? We’re all trying. He knows I am, I know he is. We’re working together, growing our relationship, making mistakes, and fixing it conversation by conversation, hug by hug.

My hope is that by opening this door of communication my kids will learn by example how to remedy misunderstandings and repair relationships. I want them to learn to not only say, “I’m sorry” but why and ask for forgiveness too. Real apologies followed by positive action is a lesson I know will serve them for years to come with friends, family members, spouses, and coworkers. It’s one I’m practicing with them often, and one I hope they’ll take to heart.

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