How to Apologize to Your Child

It's a fact: all parents make mistakes from time to time. Mighty Mommy shares 4 ways to make it right when you have a parenting fail. 

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #519

Although he's no longer seven, my son also required an apology. Unfortunately I had to do it over the phone. I could feel the coolness in his voice when he answered. I didn’t mince words and said simply that I overreacted to the news about his job. I shoud have taken the time to listen to his reasons. He was quiet for a few seconds and admitted he was angry with me. This then opened the door for him to explain that his father strongly encouraged it and had agreed to give him the spending money he would’ve earned for the rest of the semester. (Had I not been so quick to judge, he could’ve shared that piece of information with me before I blew up!)

He accepted my apology and then began excitedly talking about his upcoming spring training trip for baseball. The incident was behind us just like that.

Make it Right

Once you’ve apologized to your child, it’s time to make the situation right. An apology is necessary, but the actions that follow are even more important. Changing your behavior moving forward is a great place to start.

If you have been overly critical about how your child dresses, start focusing on all the positives he offers (such as when he makes time to help his younger sister with her homework). If your daughter was crushed because you missed her Spelling Bee, then make a consistent effort to be at the next five softball games. When you make things right, you set examples of responsibility and maturity for your child to follow in their own life.

Creative Ways to Apologize

Saying sorry can be uncomfortable but you can have some fun with it, too. Here are five ways to apologize that will leave everyone feeling better:

Use a Board Game. Take advantage of all the fabulous family-fun board games that you probably already have at home and create an apology using the game pieces. Scrabble is a no-brainer—set up the board and spell out “I am very sorry.”  Or use a deck of cards and tape a message to random cards such as all the Jacks—“I’m sorry I hurt you” or “I blew it! I’m so sorry.”   

Once you’ve apologized, now you can sit down and have some quality family time with one of these great games.

Create a Video. With all the modern-day technology available to us today—particularly if you own a smartphone—saying sorry with a video apology is easier than ever.

This is best for the teens in your life. Simply record your heartfelt apology and send to the child you’ve hurt. You can go even further and create a YouTube video. Imagine if your apology goes viral (depending on your views on internet fame, this could be a positive or negative).

Apology in a Bottle. You’re sure to get your family’s attention if you say you’re sorry with a written message in a bottle. Throwing it into the deep blue sea isn’t necessary—but leaving a bottle near the sink in the bathroom or even in the fridge next to the milk can be just as effective.

You can buy bottles at your local craft store or use empty water bottles. Fill them with sparkly confetti or little chocolates to make the apology even sweeter.

Scavenger Hunt. If you want to add a bit of fun and mystery to your apology, plan a scavenger hunt. Come up with a handful of written clues and at the end of the chase, you can have cards or handwritten notes for the one you’ve hurt. Part of your apology might include treating them for pizza or a night out to the movies.

Turndown Service. One of the highlights of staying at a nice hotel is the evening turndown service. You can do the same for your child, only you’ll leave a handwritten apology along with any other treats and delights that will help put you back into good graces.

How do you handle apologies with your kids? Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Are you listening to the Mighty Mommy podcast? Let me know what you're loving or what you want me to cover. Leave me a voicemail at 401-284-7575. Your message could be played in a future podcast!

I am sorry note image courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.