Posted by: Cathi Brese Doebler | January 19, 2009

Teaching a lesson through “I’m sorry”

We all make mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I personally find comfort in the following verse, because it reminds me that I’m going to mess up sometimes, and that’s to be expected. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20

Sometimes it is hard to admit your faults, especially to your children. However, teaching by doing is so critical when teaching your children. One of the ways to do this is by teaching them how to say, “I’m sorry”. You can explain to your child how to say “I’m sorry”, and when to say “I’m sorry”, but explaining will only go so far. They also learn from hearing you say it to them. I’m not suggesting that you apologize for no reason. But let’s be honest, all parents mess up now and then. I certainly know that I’m not a perfect parent. When I do mess up, I say “I’m sorry”. When my husband messes up, he says “I’m sorry”.

Actions of parents are modeled by their children, and you can model behavior that you want them to learn. Perhaps some parents fear that telling their child that they’re sorry will suddenly let their child know that they are not a perfect parent. That fear could hold parents back from teaching their child about being kind to others by apologizing for their mistakes. We could use a few more kind words in our world, and you are one of the biggest inspirations for your child.


  1. To learn the words “I’m sorry” at a young age usually is a response by little ones deep inside as “I better say this or Mom will be mad at me, and I can’t tolerate that.” The conscience to discern right and wrong develops in the ages 5 to 8. That is the time when kids get a hint of how they feel internally when they do wrong.

    Actually the best help we give to our children about understanding and speaking their apologies and confessions is learned as they witness their parents saying they are sorry to each other when they have hurt or offended each other. When kids see this they can build on that base of relating to others in the same way. Marriage is still the most crucial base from which children develop conscience and relationship skills.

  2. As a former HR Manager, I cannot count the times I encountered grown-ups in the workplace who were entrenched in their “sense of rightness”, and when a few “I’m sorry….let’s try this again” phrases could have moved things forward. So…the lessons learned from parents who can model the “I’m sorry”…. have life-long implications. Thank you for your “teaching a lesson through I’m sorry”….it is a small inspiration, but can move mountains!

  3. Great blog Cathi – this is a terrific idea. Now send it to Oprah & Focus On the Family!

    I always found that saying “I was sorry” to my kids gave ME enormous relief for the wrong I had said or done. And then in prayer later that night – receiving forgiveness from Jesus let me start the next day anew.

    • Thank goodness we can start each day anew, as you said! It helps when you’re learning by trial and error.

  4. Cathi this is wonderful. It affirms the things I have been taught and try to teach every day to my kids.

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