Why don’t our old parents apologize?

When my Chinese mom felt bad about something she had done or said, she would serve up a giant bowl of rice with my favorite topping. That was her way of saying “sorry.” These actions are not uncommon in the Chinese culture, or among older generations. 

Different cultures and different generations have different ways of apologizing. It is similar to the five languages of love—the theory that there are five different ways that people show and accept emotional love, for example someone might show they love another by doing acts of kindness and another might need more physical contact to feel they are loved. There are many different ways of saying ‘sorry.’ It could come in the form of doing something nice, like cleaning or fixing a delicious meal or sharing a favorite treat. It could be a surprise outing or it could be nothing at all. 

Much of the older generation don’t apologize at all. They don’t want to admit to their children that they don’t always do right. Parents are often looked at by their children as if they can do no wrong and parents embrace that image. It is a hard thing to apologize to anyone, let alone your children. When the older generation of parents were children they were taught about hierarchy in family. They were taught to respect their elders, which means never to call them out when they might be doing something wrong. They were taught that the elders always knew best and therefore never expected an apology from them. That engrained belief makes it highly uncomfortable for the older generations to say “I am sorry” to their children. 

Despite a lack of verbally communicating their regrettable feelings, it does not mean they aren’t truly sorry. Many times these things come out in actions rather than words. Sometimes you just have to look at the relationship and the actions following. While no parents should get a free pass from their children if they have done wrong, it is all part of unconditional love and acceptance. As the child, you must learn to accept that different cultures and different generations respond differently. And, you need to look at your parents as a whole rather than just the parts of however they have wronged you. No one is perfect even if as children we sometimes expect our parents to be the keepers of knowledge and to do no wrong. 

How does your parent apologize, if any?

14 thoughts on “Why don’t our old parents apologize?

  1. My mum never apologises the other day she went out and locked me in the house inadvertently. I had to go home that afternoon and was in a panic. Not once did she apologise on her return or since only did that did I manage to get my train. It is extremely disrespectful.

  2. she did wrong to me, and i am the one to seek apologize?
    i am not a child anymore, i am 23 y.o…i do have feeling,
    i know that i did mistake, but her respond was too rude to consider her daughter’s feeling.
    and i dont want to respect to whom doesnt respect me.
    she wants me to admit my mistake, but she doesnt want to admit her’s.
    she should embrace me so i will learn from my mistake.
    being rude will never get respect from others. people will hate you.
    if you can talk poliltely to strangers, why cannot being polite to your children?
    be yourself but consider others feeling. we are not toys.

  3. Is this not emotional abuse? Seems problematic and that it could have many damaging effects.

    Also, please date your articles.

    1. This topic is actually very complex because of generational differences, cultural aspect, and languages of love. I had a cat and whenever it did something naughty, it would bring me a dead mouse that he hunted a few hours after I scolded him. We certainly need to have healthy boundary and not let people step all over us, but I am curious if people apologize and communicate in languages we don’t register. I wonder what it would be like if we start noticing.

    1. Emily, I am so sorry to hear that your mom doesn’t listen to anyone even you. I can imagine the difficulty of navigating relationship with her.

  4. My parents used to foul me on money. We’ve always had a very mediocre (if any) relationship (not much to share or talk about). Once they asked me 520€ (I still remember it!😂) and told me they’d give it back to me the next month. A month later they asked for some more time bc they had “difficulties”. A few months later my mother was all like “cmon, don’t be annoying”. Sometimes they took my money away without asking me and gave it back only later justifying their theft with the same “difficulties”. They always keep around 1-2k€ for emergencies but never spend it. They could give me back my cash but never did it, even after I asked them insistently. They also snooped on me to find drugs or stuff but never did bc I knew how to hide it away from them. Useless to say they never apologized (they even expect me to help them later. Yet they say it ironically but I think that if I get successful there are chances they’ll get serious about it
    I’ll be major in a few months and I’m not sure I’ll ever see them again

    1. I am sorry your parents take money from you and never acknowledge their actions. Some parents communicate apologies differently because of cultural learning or love languages. Those parents usually do not have toxic behaviors and there is room for mutual understanding. With toxic parents, it is important to set healthy boundary and maintain a relationship that works for you.

  5. Great article. Now I think about it, when my mother does something wrong, she would tell everyone except me that she is sick. Then they will come to me and tell me about her sickness and that I should go to her. At the end of the day, i am the one apologizing for her own mistakes. Maybe thats her way of saying sorry 😅

    1. Hi there. Thanks for the comment. I would say that’s more like guilting you to apologize. One way to go about it is to say, “Mom, I am sad to see you are not feeling well. We are all human and make mistake. No need to stress over (her mistake), we can talk about it.” And you wait for her response or action. Some parents who operation on words of affirmation would verbally apologize. Some parents operate on other languages of love would use other behavioral/methods. Some people simply have too much pride to apologize.

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