Dear Miss Manners:
When should one apologize to one's children?
Sometimes I withhold an apology because I think it more important to sustain their illusion of their parents' infallibility, to keep them feeling secure. On the other hand, I would like to teach them to realize that they are not always wrong, and also to apologize when needed.
What do you think? Is there a way to apologize while keeping their faith in their parents? I am not sure this question can be wholly answered in the realm of etiquette.
Oh, yes, it can.
But first Miss Manners has to steel herself to deal with disillusionment.
Not your children's. Unless they are still in the cradle, they are on to you when you are in the wrong. And if not, you are setting yourself up for the day when they are. That is the disillusioning reality you must learn to accept.
Anyway, children's security does not come from believing that their parents are infallible. It comes from observing that they are reliable, loving and fair.
By maintaining the posture that you are right when you are wrong, you would not only be exposing yourself as unfair, but you would be teaching them to bluster through their errors, rather than to correct them.
Flash forward to the day when one of them has reached high public distinction and is indignantly denying whatever he has been caught doing. Will you be proud that the lesson took?
July 19, 2010
If only more people would read Peter Pan
They'd know the answer to this one. Though, Miss Manners will do too: