Age of Opportunity: It’s Not Too Late To Say You’re Sorry

Parents would not want communication with their child to break down. No child enjoys a rift from Mom or Dad. Yet it happens.

“My parents turned off the Wi-Fi while I am watching a YouTube video! I don’t like them!”

“My father always jumps to his own conclusion about me! So unfair!”

“To Mom, a girl should be slim and gentle. But I can still be feminine if big sized and straightforward. She scolds me for eating too much rice. I feel very hurt and tend to defy her!”

What can parents do when they hit a disconnect with their children? Two fathers share what they and their wives did.

Christopher Tan, 62, recalls this part of his parenting journey …

“I was fetching my second son from school, after he attended a motivational session in school. When I quizzed him about it, he became unusually quiet and looked distress. Suddenly, he burst out crying and asked why he was less loved than his other brothers. I was stumped! I was troubled by his sudden burst of emotional outrage.

My wife, Rebecca and I were always thankful for him. The middle child of three sons, he brought us joy. He was such a good boy that we did not feel the need to spend as much time with him as we did with his older brother. I realized he had wrongly perceived my time with his brother as an act of favouritism.

Rebecca, Chris, and Isaac (left to right). The photograph was taken by Ian, Chris’ eldest son.

Upon reflection, I could have done better to affirm my second son. He did not need us to intervene much in his school work or life. It is easy for a child to silently compare himself with his siblings based on how their parents related with them. My wife and I had always treated our boys fairly when it came to gifts or rewards, firmly avoiding favouritism. What we needed to also give was equal time and attention.

I apologized to my son that I had wronged him, and had not spent adequate time with him. I assured him we couldn’t ask the Lord for a more perfect (at least, in our eyes) son than him. I was more mindful to make time for him to hear from him how school went, his joys and challenges.

This incident was short lived. Although he accepted my apology and explanation, it took him a while to fully realize we truly valued him. In later years, he became a positive influence to his younger brother and was much respected by his older brother.

To avoid a communication breakdown, Christopher adds:

First, never be afraid to say, “I am sorry”. Our children deserve to know we can err in our ways with them. (Colossians 3:21). Second, pray that God will help you be the parent He wants you to become, and they watch you honour God in your words and actions, they want to honour Him too. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Third, find time to talk. The presence of God must be realized in and through our conversations with them. (Proverbs 17:6)”

Christopher and Rebecca are from Emmaus Evangelical Free Church. Christopher is the National Director of Our Daily Bread Ministries, Singapore. From 1999 to 2004, he served as National Director of Singapore Youth For Christ.

Wee Boon Choon navigated a stormy ride with his son but now enjoys a smooth ride together. He shares what he did.

My eldest son did many things in his teens I disapproved of. Once, I paid him a surprise visit at his part time job, and caught him wearing an earring. I asked, “What do you think you are wearing?” He took it off at once. We did not talk about it.

I was very hard on him in his teens. He did not like to study and preferred volleyball (he came from a top school team). Being old-fashioned, I wanted him to study hard and get a degree. This was our main reason of conflict. Just before his ‘O’ level examinations, our tension was even verbal, involving a war of words. I estranged my son. I humbled myself and sought counseling.

When he was 17, I apologized to him. He remarked that just saying sorry didn’t mean everything was over and wanted me to prove it. He walked off. We would not talk about our hurt again. My attempt was not really from my heart. I felt, “Why should I be the one to say sorry? He’s at fault!”

While in polytechnic, my son could not cope with his course. I knew he was afraid to tell me he wanted to quit. I thank God I managed this issue better.

It was already 2 am. I waited for him to talk. What surprised him was I did not jump at him. I told him I realized he was not inclined to his course and encouraged him to consider early enlistment. He was interviewed, picked for military intelligence and signed on for 10 years. Army life did him a lot of good. We communicated better, respecting each other. On the surface, we were cordial but our ‘wound’ was in ‘cold storage. ’

Years later, at a session by The World Needs A Father (TWNAF), the Lord convicted me to seek my son’s forgiveness. By then, he was a 34 year old father of four.

We got him over for dinner alone. After our meal, I spoke up. He brushed it aside. My wife, Kim Hong, intervened. I went on, “Daddy really wants to make it right and ask you to forgive me for all my harshness and the hurt I’ve caused you.” I continued. He nodded and finally responded, “Daddy, I forgive you” and we hugged. The healing began.

I made myself accountable to others. My tension with my son became less and we got better at talking with each other.

To Boon Choon, it is never too late to seek reconciliation with your child. He shares:

First, recognize you have hurt your child. Second, the onus is on you as the parent to think of a way to reconnect with your child one-on-one. It could be inviting him or her for a walk together or in my case, having my son over alone for dinner (he loves his mother’s cooking). Third, be ready and truly sincere to reconcile.

Boon Choon (left most) and Kim Hong attend Lighthouse Evangelism. He helps couples and families in crisis. He is a trainer and facilitator for Centre for Fathering-Dads For Life workshops and Breakfast with Dad programmes, and a volunteer in the Singapore core team of The World Needs a Father.