Have you ever been asked to "be the bigger person" after you've been in an argument with a friend or family member? Annoying as this may be to hear sometimes, the fact is every relationship needs someone to be the bigger person to help repair the inevitable ruptures that occur. This is especially true in parent-child relationships!
BUT, being the bigger person doesn't mean bottling up pain, apologising for your wrong and the other person's wrong, or suppressing your anger and acting like you are not really hurt.
Apologising just to 'make peace' when you don't want to, when you are still hurting and confused by what happened is not being the bigger person and doesn't help the relationship improve. Usually you feel more resentful, unheard and the pain builds up over time and eventually erupts either physically or mentally.
When our children are made to apologise to us because they have to, or because they are desperate to reconnect with us, pretending not to be as hurt as they feel because they are not allowed to show big emotions, the outcome is never positive.
They are taking on this pseudo 'bigger person' role when they do not have the capacity or the life experience yet to genuinely be the 'bigger person'. Neither is it their responsibility to be the 'bigger person' in our relationship with them.
So who IS the bigger person?
The bigger person is the one who is genuinely more emotionally mature - the one who can calmly reflect on the argument, is able to see both sides and empathise enough to be moved to apologise for their part. They are more concerned about restoring the relationship in a healthy way that doesn't compromise their authenticity or blame the other person for the argument. They are able to find ways to move the relationship forward and discern what forward looks like as a different type of interaction may be necessary.
The bigger person is bigger, not in stature but emotionally!
And that's why, as parents, we need to be the bigger person in our relationship with our children. Rather than asking the child to sit in a corner and think about their actions, we need to do the reflecting to understand how the rupture actually occurred!
Instead of asking/expecting them to apologise for their behaviour we need to be prepared to apologise (if necessary) for our part in creating the situation. We need to be the more emotionally mature ones (the bigger person), reflecting on arguments/tantrums/power struggles that have caused rupture and devising ways to repair the relationship - admitting our fault and apologising where necessary.
Being the bigger person usually requires you to Deal with your Past because where this sort of emotional maturity wasn't modelled to us we might find it difficult to show this to our children.
By Dealing with your Past in a healthy way, you are modelling emotional maturity to the child and at the same time repairing the relationship so that both parties are not harbouring unhealed hurt.
Find out more about our Dealing with your Past Module to learn effective discipline strategies for your child and how to set healthy boundaries for them.