Generally speaking, learning the fine art of apologising is a life skill we all must learn.

The health of our relationships pivots on humility, as much as they do honesty.

Child therapist Meri Wallace, writing in Psychology Today, echoed this sentiment, stating that an apology is a sign of strength, not weakness.

‘It shows,’ Wallace affirmed, ‘that mums and dads care enough to take responsibility for their negative actions and make amends.’

An apology, Wallace writes, is about repair. (In other words, the age-old: righting of a wrong.)


When parents take responsibility for their actions, she adds, their children learn ‘to take responsibility for their own negative behaviours, and [they learn] find better ways to handle situations in the future.’

This is solid advice worth heeding.


However, there are times when eating too much humble pie weakens relationships.

One of those times is when an apology surrenders what Dr Vanessa Lapointe describes as the ‘nurturing hierarchy’ between parents and their kids.

Contrary to Wallace, Lapointe considers asking a child for forgiveness an abdication of the mum and dad role as their child’s primary nurturing agents.

For Lapointe, instead of a vague, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” mum and dad should take personal responsibility for wrongs by clearly communicating where they went wrong. Then help their children understand why it was wrong.

Lapointe’s point is that actions speak louder than words. Saying “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” is better lived, than said.

This avoids placing an inappropriate emotional burden on children, who might not fully understand what is required of them if a parent pleads for forgiveness.

Fine Balance

I partially agree with Lapointe’s viewpoint. Apologies can be more hollow, than hallowed.

It’s better to work through an incident with a child, than rely on the words “I’m sorry” as though it was an inexhaustible get-out-of-gaol-free card.

Where Lapointe and I depart is her assertions about never apologising at all.

Never apologising, taken to the extreme, ends in excuses for aberrant behaviour.

Lapointe’s methodology implies blame-shifting and self-justification.

In this context, never apologising becomes just another cycle of harm, where cheap apologies make the words “I’m sorry,” meaningless.

Wallace’s methodology. taken to the extreme, ends in people-pleasing parents who are paralysed by some sense of duty to the false ethos of “niceness”, instead of tough love.

Together, these two viewpoints offer dads a practical way of upholding individual responsibility, without abandoning our fatherhood calling.

Dad Duty

While learning the necessary art of apology is an essential tool for the dad life, there are times when a dad should never apologise.

Listing five of these, All Pro Dad Andrew Linder wrote,

‘Never apologise for giving the best of yourself to your family, nor apologise for the moments when you have to put on the dad hat, and be a father to your kids, instead of being their friend.’

Linder adds,

‘Never apologise for removing your child from a public space to discipline them [appropriately], nor apologise for allowing them to suffer the consequences of their own poor decisions.’

He concludes,

‘Children are a blessing from God, but they are an extension of your marriage relationship, never a replacement for it. One of the best ways to bless your children is to focus on improving your relationship with your wife. ‘

Linder ends this with the reminder that loving our kids also means never apologising for putting their mum first.

The ability to change your mind about what is right and wrong in a positive way, and then enacting that change, is critical. That, with forgiveness, is indispensable to a healthy sense of self, and the life of a well-balanced community.

Knowing when to say “I’m sorry,” and when not to, goes a long way towards teaching our kids the importance of staying humble, and the value of being genuine in the process.


Photo by Pavel Danilyuk.

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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