Spoiler alert:  you most definitely can!  I learned this when my first child was six months old, and it proved to be one of my most important parenting lessons. When I wasn’t rushing out to work, one of my favorite pastimes was lingering over a morning cup of coffee.  After the baby was born, I’d hold her while I had my coffee and it worked out just fine.  However, at 6 months she was getting pretty good at reaching for objects, which began to include the hot cup of coffee.

It happened that one morning that I was feeling rather put upon at having to relinquish my coffee yet again. As this was my first baby, I didn’t realize that in a matter of weeks she would be catapulting around on the floor, my cup of coffee forgotten.

That morning, as she reached for the cup, I scolded her with a sharpness that was uncalled for.  My baby looked at me with eyes brimming with hurt, astonishment, and even a beginning awareness of the injustice of my behavior.  “I’m the baby, you know”, the eyes said.

Truly chastened, I got the point.  It wasn’t about me anymore.  So I apologized to my baby, right then and there, and took my time doing it.  It’s unlikely she understood my words, but must have intuited the intent, because she smiled and reached for the cup again. I’ve found it appropriate to apologize to my kids countless times since then, and am thankful I learned how early on.

When I counsel parents, one of the things I recommend is apologizing to their kids on a regular basis. The difference between and a good parent and a bad parent is not never making mistakes, but whether or not the parent takes responsibility for those mistakes.