Be the First to Say You’re Sorry (7 Ways to Connect with Your Teen: Part 6)
It happens to all of us. We are in the middle of what we think is a perfectly normal conversation with our teen, when suddenly voices get louder, tears fall, and all you-know-what breaks loose!
Or maybe we make a promise with every intention of fulfilling it; only, we forget to check our schedule first or something important pops up. We try to explain or justify our predicament, but our words ring hollow to our teen’s disappointed ears.
Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in conflict of some sort with our teenagers, wondering who will be the first to say sorry. Can I give you some advice?
Most of the time, it should be you.
Most of the time it isn’t even our fault!
That’s probably true. But it doesn’t matter. If you value connecting with your teen, you should be the first one to say you’re sorry.
One of our family sayings is “Your relationship should be more important than your need to be right.” Stephen Covey said it this way: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
When there is a heated exchange, both parties usually have something they could have done differently. As the adult in the situation, we have an opportunity to exercise our spiritual maturity and make the first move. If we don’t, we risk endangering future connection with our teens.
“As the adult in the situation, we have an opportunity to exercise our spiritual maturity and make the first move. If we don’t, we risk endangering future connection with your teens.”
Why We Need to Be the First to Say We’re Sorry
1. Exercise Spiritual Maturity
One of our greatest areas of influence with our teen is how we live out our faith. Asking them to “do as we say, not as we do” is a great way to lead them away from a life-transforming faith in Christ. In times like these, we need to set aside our feelings, put our money where our mouth is, and choose to respond in obedience to Christ.
God’s Word speaks very clearly on the issue of relational conflict and taking responsibility for our actions. The Bible is filled with examples, commands, and encouragements on how we are to treat one another! For the sake of brevity, here are 5 verses that remind us why we need to be the first to say we’re sorry (even if the argument wasn’t really our fault):
- “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV)
- “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is (sums up) the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, ESV, parenthesis added)
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
- “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5, ESV)
- “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)
2. Lead by Example
Not only does God expect us to live obediently to His Word for our own sake, He also wants us to model it for our teens. Jesus often led by example, and He gives us plenty of opportunities to do the same for our children.
When we acknowledge their emotions (even though we may be frustrated ourselves), we teach them the value of empathy. It takes great humility and gentleness to do this, but it helps evaporate tension and negative feelings, which are important skills for our teens to learn.
If we are willing to admit our imperfections, it makes it easier for them to do the same. Our vulnerability helps them feel less defensive and paves the way for better communication.
Finally, taking responsibility for our own actions and choices encourages our teens to do the same. This can be difficult if we really did mess up because it requires surrendering our pride (ugh). However, sometimes it’s even harder to apologize when we know our perspective is correct and our actions are justified! In this case, I often apologize for my method, not my message.
Our kids often hear some version of this apology from me: “What I said was correct, and I believe you needed to hear it. But I was hurt and angry, and I was obviously not using self-control. I am so sorry for yelling at you and reacting in my anger; it was wrong and not the example I want to set for you. I should have waited until I calmed down to continue the conversation. Will you please forgive me?”
It’s obviously best when we can lead by example in positive situations! But just like us, our kids are going to mess up sometimes. What an awesome opportunity for us to model for them what it looks like to be the first one to say their sorry.
3. Establish Trust
Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” One of the best ways we can build trust with our teens is by saying we’re sorry and being the one to initiate reconciliation. It shows them they matter to us more than our pride, more than “being right.”
Establishing trust with our teens is one of the best ways to help build strong connections… which is what this series is all about!
So, next time you find yourself in a sudden explosion of conflict with your teen, remember that while it may not feel like it, it’s actually a great opportunity to connect with them! Take some time to cool down, to allow both of you to process your words and emotions, so you don’t react in anger.
And then, when you’re ready, be the first one to say you’re sorry.
“It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.”― Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
You can CLICK HERE FOR A FREE PRINTABLE AND ACTION SHEET to help you be intentional about connecting with your teen!
Stay tuned next time as we finish up this series with #7: Hug Them! Here’s all the topics we’ve covered in this series…
- Pray with them and for them
- Make time for them
- Learn to listen more than you speak
- Engage in the hard conversations
- Take advantage of their rhythms
- Be the first to say you’re sorry
- Hug them!
If you know someone who might find this series helpful, will you please send them an email link or share this with them on social media? And if you want to talk with other moms about Biblical parenting and faith, come join the conversation in my private FB group!