You should say you’re sorry

Written by contributor Jena of Yarns of the Heart

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I‘ve been reading through my journals lately. A little over fourteen years ago, here’s what my four-year-old Missa (the one in the red shirt) said to me over dinner:

“You should say you’re sorry for yelling at me about the ice cream.”

I kissed her and said I was sorry.

“If you want to make me cry, just yell at me.”

A little later she said, thoughtfully, “Just because you yell at me doesn’t mean you don’t love me, right? You’re teaching me things I need to learn, right?”

A few minutes later she said, “I take back all the I-hate-you’s I wrote today. But I don’t take back the I-love-you’s.”

I smiled and said, “And I know you still love me even when you say you hate me. You are just mad.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m just angry and frustrated.”

She was a very verbal little four-year-old!

This story made me laugh and cry at the same time. I called Melissa right away (who is now 18 and in college) and read it to her. She thought it was cute and that yes, she loves me, no matter what.

My kids helped me learn how to see the world through their eyes. They are constantly looking for love and security, reassurance that they are accepted in the little group that lives in their house.

My reaction to the ice cream incident (whatever that was) made her mad and made her doubt that I loved her. But the rest of our relationship made her question that conclusion. I’m glad she felt comfortable enough to confront me about it. And I’m glad that I was humble enough to apologize and affirm her.

Over the years, I worked on how I responded to my kids, and being with them all day, every day gave me lots of practice! Not only did I have to teach them how to treat each other, I had to model right behavior.

One of my favorite sayings in the Book of Proverbs is “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We all memorized it and tried to live it.

Today my kids would probably tell you that I never yelled at them, and that’s the beauty of love and time. Listen to your kids and be honest with yourself.

Homeschooling has something to teach moms too.

What have you learned from your kids lately?

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About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.


  1. A lovely story.

  2. I have quite the verbal three-year old myself. The other day she told me I was “a little bit mean” when I talked to her. I apologized and she said, “It’s okay, mommy. We’re all a little bit mean sometimes.”
    Steph’s latest post: Cookie Cutters, Shortbread Cookies and a Great Reminder

  3. I love how children are so honest. I hope mine will always feel they can talk to me, and that I will be humble enough to say I’m sorry.
    Rita’s latest post: Taking a breather…or my 2013 reading list

  4. Such wise words. I am 31 and still have a strained relationship with my mother, because I can’t verbalize how I feel without it ending in disaster. She’s old school authoritarian – and having these kinds of conversations are viewed as disrespectful. I am thankful to have the opportunity to do things differently with my own children. Reading your words encourages me that this kind of listening and patience will pay off with my four kiddos in the end.
    Many blessings to you!

    • I can relate. Same age, same number of kids…same kind of mom. Ha! To encourage you, things got better for me and my mother. We talk a lot now and I can verbalize a lot more now without the tragic ending. However, that change came when I changed in my approach. I used to try to be like her when we conversed, but that just didn\’t work. A soft answer definitely turns away wrath, so that\’s what I did. My mother has changed a LOT that God! And so have I. I hope and pray the same for you and your mother. *hugs*

  5. I am in the season of homeschooling a 7 & 8 year old, we are working on how we speak to each other. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. This is year 24 for our home school. I have told many Moms that one of the most important things we can say to our children is we are sorry. To model repentance in front of them is priceless. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Elizabeth Kane says:

    It’s not always easy apologizing. Stubbornness really has a way of getting the best of us sometimes. But it’s amazing what a genuine, “I’m sorry” can do for a relationship with someone you love – no matter how small they are. Thank you for the reminder, Jena.

  8. We love that verse too (a gentle answer turns away wrath) and have a little song we sing with it. I need the reminder as much as my kids sometimes. We seem to be doing better though. 🙂
    Charity@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: Priorities (and What I Need to Cut Out)

  9. Wow… you had a smart 4-year-old! I love the acknowledgement that sometimes you need to apologize even to little children — so many adults don’t want to lose any authority, so they avoid having honest conversations with their young kids or acknowledging that they’re wrong sometimes. Giving young children the respect and consideration you’d give an adult is so helpful, though, and I remember appreciating it when my parents would discuss things like this frankly with me like they would with another adult.
    Kjerstin @’s latest post: Homeschool Types: Which One is Right for You?

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