Tag Archive for: why should I apologize?

6 Steps to Help Validate Your Kids

The word validation has been cropping up everywhere I turn for the past two weeks.  It’s something that I’ve struggled with for years.  I always thought empathy and validation were essentially the same thing.  I tended to be pretty good on the empathy front so I assumed that my empathy was in fact validating my kids.  After all, I was listening, naming their feelings, trying to connect on an emotional level.  I was telling them I understood why they felt the way they did, and then I would share how I saw the situation.

Wrong.  (That is the sharing how I saw the situation part).

It took a good friend to call me out on it one day.  Actually we were in the middle of a disagreement.  It wasn’t heated and I was doing my best at showing her empathy at the time.  Then I used the word.  You probably use it often too.  It is that little word where we invalidate everything we just said.

I used the word “But”.

Validation is more than empathy.  Validation says that you have a right to think the way you do AND feel the way you feel.  It also says that I’m willing to acknowledge it.  I am willing to be present in your moment.

On a surface level, validation is acknowledgement.  When we are standing in the kitchen prepping a meal and our teen comes in from school, turning to acknowledge they are home, looking them in the eye, or asking a question is a form of validation.  It says that I think you are more important that whatever I am doing in the moment.  I choose to be present and engage says a lot to validate the importance of that person in your life.  Multi-tasking while our teen is sharing their story is not validation.  

Oh, my.  How many times a day do I actually stop what I am doing to validate the importance of my teen in my life?

Another level of validation is to summarize and reflect on what the other person has said and maybe include how you think the person is feeling.  Just by summarizing in a non-judgmental way, it tells your teen that you hear her AND you acknowledge her world.  If your teen comes in crying and tells you something her best friend did to her, “Meggie told everyone at school that I liked Tim.  I hate her!”, validating her might be something like “Oh, I’m so sorry she told everyone that.  You must feel so hurt that she would betray your confidence.”  Another step would be to hug and console her by letting her cry on your shoulder.

How many times do we invalidate our teen by saying things we think will fix the problem?  “Oh, honey, you don’t hate Meggie.  She’s your best friend.”  or “Meggie certainly didn’t mean to tell everyone.  You’re just hurt.  This will blow over.”  We may say the words in a soothing manner; however, have we thought about what we are really saying to our child?  Words such as these defend the other person and can make our teen feel like their thoughts and feelings aren’t justified.

To take it up a notch, we can even validate someone when we are in the middle of a disagreement. 

  • Listen carefully to their words and summarize them to make sure you heard correctly in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way.
  • Read their body language and use words to describe what they might be feeling.  Get consensus that the words you choose are accurate to them.
  • Understand their tone of voice and acknowledge the emotion the other person is conveying.
  • Agree with the other person as much as possible.  In other words, agree that they have a right to feel the way they feel and they have a right to think differently than you.
  • Apologize for your part in making the other person feel the way they feel even if you feel that you did nothing to make them feel that way. Sometimes we do and say things that are taken the wrong way, but we can still apologize for the way it came across.
  • Try to resolve the disagreement only after the other person feels totally heard and understood.  Make sure they know that you are on their team.

A mom called me last week to share a conversation she had had with her adult son.   He called her to say he wanted to come over because he had some things he wanted to get off his chest.  It seems he had been bottling up frustration for several years about some of the decisions his mom had made when he lived at home and the way he was parented.  This son came in with accusation after accusation.  When I asked my friend how she responded to him, she told me, “I just listened and then told him why I did the things I did.”

As she shared, I imagined a ping-pong game.  You did this, justification.  You did that, justification.  When this happened, justification.  You didn’t, justification.  Back and forth without any acknowledgement of his feelings.  No summarizing to get clarification of his thoughts or to make sure he felt heard.

“How did the conversation end?” I asked.

“After about an hour and a half, I told him I was sorry and he left,” she responded.  “He seemed talked out.”

“I asked if she thought her son felt closure and connection.”  

“I don’t know,” she replied.

The son most likely wanted reconciliation and an adult perspective of what happened while he was growing up.  Let’s face it.  As parents we will make mistakes and we want our kids to bring those things they are having difficulty understanding to our attention.  Thankfully, this mom was open to the conversation; she listened and she did apologize.

That’s a great first step.

But validation can be so much more if we choose to not justify our actions.  Justification says I’m right and you are wrong.  It can become threatening and feel judgmental to the other person.

Many of us do this without even realizing it!  It is second nature to justify our actions and responses especially if we grew up in a home that didn’t use validation as a means of encouragement and connection. 

This friend and I are still talking about her conversation with her son.  She didn’t even recognize that there was more she could have done.  I’m encouraging her to try practicing the skill of validation and reopen the conversation with her son in the future.  If she does, then full restorative healing can take place.

Acknowledgement of our child’s thoughts, frustrations, and emotions through validation can strengthen our relationship beyond our wildest dreams.  It communicates acceptance.  It communicates that their thoughts and emotions have value.  And even when we don’t necessarily agree with them, it shows that there are different ways to view any situation and their way is okay.  Validation leads to an opportunity to later explain your view of the situation without condemnation.  They’ll be more open to listening to you because they feel valued by you.

Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Dare you to learn the skills of validation to enhance the relationship with your teens.  Start becoming more aware of your conversations with your teens by getting rid of the “but” and justifying your actions.  If you do, it will strengthen your relationship.

“Let go…and let God”,

We’re in the process of revamping our With All Due Respect eCourse.  For a limited time moms can sign up for our current course on Facebook.  And it’s free. Get your copy of the book to go through the dares with us here.

Got Mom Guilt?

Just the other day a couple of us were laughing and shaking our heads “yes” as a mom shared that she was having detailed dreams of things that had happened with her kids for which she felt guilty.  She shared how she texted her college-age student one evening when she thought of something she had done–and apologized.

I love that she did that.

After all, hurts can take up residence in the heart of the person we’ve wronged and stay there a lifetime.  Apology can be a great way to ease the burden for the other person and for us.

As most of us have experienced, Mom guilt is a thing.  We’ve all gone down that path a few times when we’ve said or done something to our kids that we regret.  Or maybe it is something we wish we could do for our kid but we can’t.

Several years ago I heard a mom jokingly tell her kids, “In addition to saving up for college for you, maybe we need to start putting money away for the counseling you will need as adults with all the mistakes we’ve made in our parenting.”

I thought is was a great line and so true.

Humor aside, as moms we all know that we’ve made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes in our parenting. But do we need to feel the heavy guilt for what we’ve done?

As our small group of women continued to talk about mom guilt, a very wise woman said it best.  “I don’t feel guilty.  I just feel sad and have regrets.”

Think about that for a minute.  What’s the difference?  Guilt versus sadness and regret.

As I tried to wrap my brain around her comment, the wisdom of what this woman was saying spoke volumes.

Guilt implies that you knew what you were doing at the time was wrong.

Read that last sentence again.  Guilt implies that you knew what you were doing at the time was wrong.

There are times when we don’t know what we don’t know, so we can’t be guilty.  To me that is freeing.

In my own life I’ve learned to look at things through a lens of not being responsible for everything that happens with my kids.  Let me explain.  None of us are God.  We can’t know everything.  There are things we will be blind to until God opens our eyes–typically through a painful event that leads to wisdom.

Our kids didn’t come with an instruction manual.  We learn parenting by trial and error and we will make mistakes.  But most times we don’t know our parenting decisions are mistakes until we see the outcome that proves we should have taken a different approach.  That’s when God peals the blinders from our eyes.  That is where we gain wisdom.

So what can we do to get rid of the guilty feeling that the reason our kids are doing bad things, making poor choices, or are struggling is because we weren’t a good enough parent?  How do we deal with the judgment we are heaping on ourselves making us believe the lie that we are terrible parents?

  1. Take the guilty feelings and leave them at the foot of the cross.  Ask God to help you see truth in that moment.  Did you have the knowledge and wisdom that you do now?  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1.
  2. Learn to accept that we aren’t perfect nor will we ever be this side of eternity.  We can only parent with the knowledge and wisdom we have at the time.
  3. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.  Let God’s mercy wash those feelings away and ask Him to right your wrongs in your kids’ lives.  With God all things are possible.  Matthew 19:26.
  4. Apologize to your child for the things that come to mind.  Even if it happened a decade ago, letting your child know that you are sorry for what you did at the time lets them know you are human and models accepting responsibility for our own mistakes.
  5. If your teen brings something up, apologize, empathize, and if they are ready to listen, share why you made the decision you made.  Be sure to give them a hug and let them know they are loved.
  6. When guilt rears its ugly head again, and it will, have scriptures available to keep you from the pit.  After all, whatever you have done, whatever guilt or shame you feel, He allowed it to happen.  He works all things together for our good. Romans 8:28.

Pray with me.

Dear Heavenly Father,

“Oh how I feel guilty for things that I have done or should have done with my child.  I know that I did the best that I could with what I knew in the moment.  You created ___________ as a separate human being who has free will.  And that’s kind of hard for me to fathom.  At times our lives are so intertwined that I wish I could help them see what’s best for them.  I’m sad for their choices; however, I know that I cannot own the decisions they’ve made.  I am not God.  Lord, You are weaving a tapestry that I will not fully comprehend this side of heaven.  Please help me to pray without ceasing and let You be God in this situation.  My child is yours, Lord.  You’ve only given him to me on loan.  Help me to do the best I can in each and every moment so that You will receive the glory and honor.

In the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

Knowing that we’ll never be perfect this side of heaven… 

“Let go…and Let God”,

Would you like to learn more about letting go of the guilt we put on ourselves as moms?  Would you like to deepen your relationship with God and your kids?  With All Due Respect isn’t just a book.  It’s deep thinking curriculum that will help you look at yourself as you parent.  It will give you insight as seen through the lens of moms who are farther ahead in the parenting arena.  Why not pick up your copy now or better yet, do it in a small group?

Don’t have a small group?  You can join our eCourse with women across the country that are learning how to connect on a deeper level.  There you will find support from your eCourse mentors as well as myself.  Hope to see you there.