Teaching Children to Say, “I’m Sorry”
I don’t know if you have noticed, but it seems that fewer and fewer people know how to use those simple words, “I’m sorry.”
Apologizing isn’t natural for most humans. In fact, I doubt that it is natural to any of us, although I am sure some learn to do it more easily than others.
Saying I’m sorry and better yet, truly being sorry, are learned behavior.
I don’t think you can just force your child to apologize, because at that point, they are just lying about how they feel. It has been more effective for me to try to get my child to understand that there were consequences of his actions.
Admittedly, that isn’t always easy with a toddler, but over time they have all gotten it. They will not apologize for something they don’t feel sorry for, but they are great about heartfelt apologies when it counts.
And I’m good with that.
Parents have to model the behavior they want their children to copy. When I yell at my kids, I almost always go back and say, “Yelling is never the way to handle frustration. It makes people feel bad. I am so sorry I yelled at you; please forgive me.”
In that statement, I have admitted to what I did wrong, empathized with how they might have felt, and expressed my sorrow at hurting them. My apology was an acknowledgement of my wrongdoing and the resulting emotions it caused.
My kids apologize the same way. Tossing off a snarly, “I’m sorry” won’t cut it around here. It’s too easy to learn to apologize without ever really meaning it, or the worst apology ever – blaming someone else in the apology.
“I’m sorry, but you mad me so mad!”
That is not an apology. That is an accusation.
How to you teach your kids to apologize and mean it?