Home > Teaching Your Kids to Apologize – And Mean It
Posted by Shannon M. on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
In grade school, apology was an often empty exercise. Bobby hit Johnny then Mrs. So-and-So sits the children down and forces them to make an insincere apology. This approach was the norm; the “Get Out Of Jail Free” card; all the child has to do is to say those magic words and freedom is suddenly imminent.
Though I’m sure who ever spearheaded this practice had the best possible intentions (accountability, empathy…), I also know that the best made plans often go awry. Apologizing is important but sincerity is foremost.
Never force an apology
Focus on why the situation calls for an apology instead of trying to squeeze a disingenuous “sorry” out of your child. Why should you apologize for pulling your sister’s hair? If your child cannot come up with an answer, then you should answer for them.
No-fly “sorry” zone
A “sorry” should never be a pass for bad behavior. An apology is empty without accepting responsibility for your actions and, though it may be trite, actions always speak louder than words.
Real apologies are better
Explain the differences between “real” and “fake” apologies. “Real” apologies occur after thinking about what you’ve done and considering how it may have hurt someone else. “Fake” apologies involve no thought and often exacerbate the problem, making others feel even worse.
The next time your child apologizes, encourage him/her to offer an apologetic action such as a hug or the sharing of a toy. This helps to give the often abstract qualities of an apology a tangible element.
The Golden Rule
Around the age of five, kids begin to develop empathy. At this age you can ask your child to truly consider other’s feelings. Ask how he/she would feel if someone did XYZ action to them. Ask how they would want their friends to treat them. However they respond, be sure to encourage the use of emotive words such as “happy,” “angry,” and “sad.” It’s important to not only ask your child to consider the feelings of others but to also put these feelings in words.
Remember: the best teaching model for your children is your own behavior. Be the change you would like to see in your child.