Forgiveness And Your Relationship with Your Child

One of the few things that I hold close to me is the idea of forgiveness. As I’ve matured, I’ve struggled with what it truly means to forgive and what forgiveness (or the lack thereof) can do to a relationship.parent coach, parents forgiving kids, forgiveness, family coach, parenting

When I talk to parents about this idea I usually get a stream of comments and perspectives:

“I can’t keep forgiving his behavior.”

“I’ve forgiven her a lot and I don’t know how to forgive anymore”

“I believe in forgiveness, but when does it stop being ‘forgiveness’ and start being ‘taken advantage of’?”

Interestingly enough, my kids have the exact same feelings about forgiving their parents as their parents have about forgiving their kids.

As each side puts its walls up, the parent-child relationship deteriorates and makes it difficult to repair. This causes more power struggles, less communication, and more unwanted behavior because neither side is trusting enough to truly change and be remorseful for the occurring behaviors.

So, how do you prevent this cycle or undue to damage that’s already in place?

Say “Sorry”

The idea of saying sorry to your child is a controversial one, I know. But here’s the way I see it: You apologize for your actions and your reactions, but not for having feelings or needs. When parents start a tradition of apologizing in the family it creates a safe space for kids and parents to own up to their reactions and actions to each other and mend the broken pieces caused by those actions.

For example, if you screamed at your child for not doing the dishes you can apologize for screaming. But then state that you felt hurt that you had asked for the dishes to be cleaned and the task was not done.  Taking responsibility also models this behavior for your children.

Give Space to Air Grievances

Take time (i.e. twice a week) for you and your child to talk about what things you liked and did not like about your interactions over the week. As you both get comfortable talking about feelings and taking responsibility for your actions, you can feel safe knowing that your child will not use this time to attack you. This can be used to also clear up misunderstandings.

An example could be that you felt that your child was purposefully ignoring you one day this week and when you brought it up, your child was able to say that they weren’t ignoring you but were afraid to tell you what happened at school that day.  This type of misunderstanding can be cleared up and you both can move on.

Create an “I’m Sorry” Jar

If you are just trying out this idea of apologizing, start small. Create a jar for each member of the family and as each day goes by you can write an “I’m sorry for _____” note to place in the person’s jar. I’d challenge you to put your name on the note too. At the end of the week, you can all talk about what it was like getting an apology and if that helped them forgive the person.

Ban Perfectionism

One thing that both parents and children do that can sometimes undermine forgiveness is place high expectations on each other. Children sometimes think that their parents aren’t supposed to make mistakes, and parents expect their child to get things right if they’ve already shown them how to do it. But as humans, neither of you will get it right 100% of the time.

When your child makes a mistake, don’t treat them as if they should’ve known better. Instead, show empathy and support them as they learn. What’s funny is as you begin to show that empathy to your child, they’ll begin to show it back. One way to remember to show empathy instead of expect perfection is to remember a time when you made a mistake and were given the space to grow and learn from that mistake as opposed to being scolded. Creating an environment where you and your child can honor each other’s imperfections will reduce overreaction and nitpicking over mistakes.

Forgiveness is a skill to be worked on between both you and your child. When we chose to forgive we are saying that my relationship with my this person:

  1. Means something
  2. Is worth it, and,
  3. Is important to keep

I constantly get to witness that when parents and children learn to forgive, it allows more space for love, growth, and healing within the family. Holding on to your child’s negative behaviors feeds resentment and anger and will eventually distance you from your child.

While you get to have feelings and be overwhelmed with your child’s behaviors, ask yourself what holding on to that will do to you? And what will it do to your relationship with your child?

If you’re willing to give forgiveness a try in your relationship with your child, please contact me at 310-351-3609 or

2 thoughts on “Forgiveness And Your Relationship with Your Child”

  1. Maira gomez says:

    Good information for divorced persions.

    1. Welcome Maira! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that while many parents can use these tools, it can be helpful for co-parents trying to work together to raise their children. It can also work for forgiveness as a whole — with your children or with others! Hope to read your insights on other posts as well! 🙂

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