Category Archives: When Good Kids Do Bad Things


Apologies are part of the Emotional Fitness Exercise called Forgiveness.  This Wrong Card makes an important point:

Sometimes we apologize when we feel a hurt the other person does not feel.

Sometimes we apologize when we feel we hurt another person and they have no idea what we are talking about. One reason we need to think less emotionally and realize what we feel is not always what someone else feels. . Thank you Wrong Cards.


Children often don’t know what we mean when we say “I’m sorry.”  That is why when you apologize you always need to include what you are apologizing for. That is also why you need to teach children the same.

For more about apologizing go to Apologies: Healthy for You and Your Child .


Remember what matters; teach your children good manners; apologizing is one and manners matter; so do hugs, practicing kindness, laughing, and playing together.

As always for all your sharing and caring, I thank you.




The ability to accept responsibility for unacceptable behavior by apologizing is a major emotional fitness skill.  Proper apologies heal rifts that otherwise can end relationships.  As with most emotional fitness skills, this one needs to be taught.

Emotional Fitness Training Skill Building Poster

My mother could explode in anger. She never got physical with her anger, but her emotional tirades had the force of a small atomic bomb.  Tied to her body’s hormonal swings, the angry bombs were often dropped illogically.  Something ignored the previous day detonated emotional blasts that terrified, confused, and hurt me. I would end up crying in my room.  In time my father would collect me and take me down to rejoin the family and the incident would be over until the next time.  The family rule was to pretend nothing had happened. My mother would not apologize; my father would not explain.  Not good.

It was when my father was dealing with the cancer that killed him that he said “I’m sorry.”  He was sorry he hadn’t spent more time with us.  For me, then a grown up, it was an apology for all his flaws and particularly for not protecting me from my mother’s tirades.  It was a healing moment for both of us.   Then when my mother died, I had a sense her spirit hovered around me like a warm blanket asking me to forgive her.  A major healing moment.

Don’t make your children wait so long to hear “I’m sorry.”

PARENTING ADVICE FOR TEACHING children to apologize 

Tip one:  You teach this as you teach so many things. How? By example.  If you are comfortable with saying you are sorry, your children will be too. So examing your comfort level with admitting wrong and apologizing. Easy? Good for you. Not so easy?  Make it easier. Work on it. Set a goal of apologizing at least three times to someone every day. One of those times can be by letter or email.

I am sorry if asking you to do that burdened you. I hope doing so benefits you and your child and that will help you will forgive me.

Tip two: Remember age and stage.  With those just learning to talk who have hurt another put the words for a simple apology in their mouths: “Tell your sister, ‘Sorry I hurt you’.”

Once the child has the hang of an apology, you can coach more simply with raised eyebrows and the word “Sorry” asked as a question or in some situations given as a command.

Don’t go for a perfect apology, say a “Thank you” for any attempted effort that approaches an apology.

Three and four year olds can be taught the art of making amends.

By the time a child can read, make the art of  apologizing the subject of a family meeting. Don’t hold family meetings?  Shame on you. Oops, sorry for using those three words.

It might help you to know one of the things I didn’t do as a good enough parent was hold family meetings. Shame on me.  The idea never occurred to me until I was directing a mental health service and started training for what were called Family Network Meetings. Once I was taught how, I taught others.  In time,  I decided the best way to train parents was to teach them to hold successful family meetings; I used a business meeting model and in time wrote a book about how to hold a successful family meeting. Yes, that is a plug.

Back to the business of age and stage.  Preteens and teens can be helped to write letters of apology.

Tip Three: Let go of perfectionism. One of the things that hinders the ability to apologize is expecting perfection from yourself.  Not good.

Even though my mother was emotionally abusive, my father not protective enough, and neither good at apologizing, they were good enough parents.  They off set their flaws with love, modelling many of the skills that became Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. and acts of kindness. If you are reading this that is a sign you are a good enough parent.


Remember what matters; teach your children good manners; apologizing is one and manners matter; so do hugs, practicing kindness, laughing, and playing together.

As always for all your sharing and caring, I thank you.


Links to articles of interest

How to apologise: Wikihow

Ask men: How to apologise

How to hold successful family meetings

It’s OK for parents to get angry

This excerpt from ‘When Good Kids Do Bad Things‘ talks about the value of getting angry, that it must be paired with allying (showing your love and support), and relates one of Katherine’s always relevant and always revealing stories from when she was a foster parent to troubled teens.


Some parent education books, like Parent Effectiveness Training, urge you to keep your parenting conflict-free. Not me. As I discussed in the Gotcha Wars, a good kid doing bad things sometimes needs an angry parent. Also, there are times when you simply cannot help getting so fed up and frustrated that you blow like Moby Dick. That’s life. You’re human.

Yes, blowing signals a failure to communicate, but it also signals the start of an unplanned Caring Response… as long as it is followed by an effort to ally. A blowup can mean that you care enough to sound your angriest. It won’t damage your child unless you neglect to ally right away, showing that you want to understand her needs and point of view. Repeat: Confronting (with or without blowing up) and allying must always be linked. Like the old saying that you should never go to bed angry with your spouse, you should never let your child walk away from a confrontation convinced you don’t care about her. Never.

This is hard to do, I grant you, when your child is determined to play a heavy Gotcha War game. Making sure you ally in that situation requires practice. Worse, a kid can sometimes resist your peacemaking efforts because she wants to create a blowup that will give her an excuse to break your rules.

When pretty little Coralee followed me around one afternoon trying to pick a fight, I was magnificently serene. From other kids I had learned that she wanted to party that night. Her conscience would not let her be bad unless I was bad. For a gruelling five hours the contest wore on—and finally she won. I blew. Even now, I can conjure up the Gotcha War victory smile she flashed when she shouted that she was leaving “this shit-hole.” While she was packing upstairs, I had just enough time to calm myself down. She stormed down the staircase, still spouting obscenities, but I was ready with an allying statement:
“I’m really pissed right now, but when you come back, we’ll talk about this. I do care.”

No, she did not melt. In fact, she got angrier and flew out the front door. But she did hear me, and that is what mattered in long run. Soon she was back with us, ready to look at what had happened and why.

Sometimes, when a confrontation with a kid was rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse, the best allying I could do was to say loudly:
“I want this settled, but right now I’m just getting more and more upset. We’ll have to talk later. I care enough to work this out . . . but not now!”
When a youngster became familiar with this message, I could shorten it: “Time out. I’m pissed. I care.”

The most bloodthirsty of Gotcha Warriors might continue, despite my call for a recess. Some kids have followed me to the bathroom and stood outside pounding on the door. Sometimes I could only escape by leaving the house. It took time, but eventually I learned, even in those hellish situations, that the child needed my anger but I had to remain detached. I practiced until I could say, “I still care. I need to get away for a while. We’ll talk later.”


When Good Kids Do Bad Things – A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers, currently with 11 5-star reviews, is available on Amazon.


For those of you who are recovering from a long weekend, I suspect there were times the thought behind this poster rang a bell and for some, getting back to work outside the home seems a blessing.

Funny parenting poster

Hope the laugh helped. For more laughs I suggest you follow Jay Solomon, the originator of the poster, or at least his blog is where I found it. He has a South Park sense of humor, so if that is not your thing, you are going to miss some good laughs and something to think about.  As my mother would say, “To Each Their Own.”


Tip one:  Instead of locking the kids up, I locked myself in the bathroom. Had to turn the radio up loud to dull the protests; headphones helped.

One dear friend had children who had afternoon colic spells that nothing calmed. Finally, she learned to put him safely in his crib, and take to her garden with a book and a Walkman.  Of course she kept the window open to his room and occasionally lifted her earphones to assure herself by his crying he was still alive. When the crying stopped she would return to the house peek in on him — he would be napping.  Then she would take her nap and both would wake refreshed. 

Tip two: If your kids are aging out of naps, start a daily quiet time.  The command: “To your room, to rest, read, play quietly.  Do not emerge (unless the fire alarm rings, you are bleeding, or your sibling (if you share a room) has been knocked unconscious) until a parent opens your door.”  

Tip Three: Not too late to start something similar with pre-teens and teens.  Just say, “My quiet time, you know the house rules, obey them.  You know my quiet time rules – disturb me on the pain of death unless death is threatening you or another.”

Tip four:  Quiet time is best used as me-time for parents.  If you must work at something, make it something you will enjoy, otherwise indulge in a do nothing or do only for me respite.  I nap, read, or do puzzles.

Stay Strong

Love Jay’s poster, but parenting isn’t easy. Nor is finding the me-time that keeps you safe.  Making the effort matters and makes you able to soldier on through the difficult times without doing major damage to you or others.

I hope you took advantage of my free eBook Twelve Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises to Tame Mad, Bad, and Sad feelings this weekend; if so and if you found it helpful, spread the word about it and my other books.   See the side bar.  All can be read on a Kindle or a computer using Amazon’s free reading apps

GOOD NEWS: My eBook ‘When Good Kids Hang Out With The Wrong Crowd‘ will be a free download on Amazon from Saturday June 1st to midnight Wednesday June 5th. The free download can be read on computers, laptops and other devices using Amazon’s free reading tools. If you do download it, consider posting a review; I’d really appreciate it.

For all you do, thank you to help me and others, thank you.



The first:  Although built upon evidenced based practices, there is no guarantee my advice is the right advice for you and your family. Experiment, try my tips; if they are not useful to you try another parent adviser. You are the expert on you and your child; the rest of us experts on many different things.

The second: I have dysgraphia, a learning disability that peppers my writing with mis-spelling and punctuation errors. All my books are professionally edited. Not so my blog posts. Although I use all the grammar and spelling checks, mistakes slip by. If they bother you, seek another source of support for life’s less savory moments.   Life is too short to let problems you can avoid annoy or stress you.