Do you wonder how to have your child apologize and mean it? We are so quick to force our children to say “I’m Sorry” that we don’t think through whether or not there is true remorse. Or are they just appeasing us in the moment. But it’s something you can change.
“Tell your sister you are sorry right now,” I said firmly to my 6 year old daughter. The same usually sweet child who had pushed her sister out of the way to be “first” getting into the shower (oh the stupid things they find to argue about).
Hannah looked at me and then at her sister and dutifully said those 3 simple words….”I am sorry.”
But I wondered…had I really accomplished anything?
I mean, was she really sorry or was she just saying the words she knew without which would land her in time out.
HOW DO YOU APOLOGIZE?
And it made me reflect on the whole process of apologizing. What it means to me as an adult. The distance in time between when I KNOW I’ve done something wrong and I’m READY to be sorry for it.
Sometimes, it is immediate. If I yell at my girls, I know immediately I should say sorry because I feel terrible.
But what about when I get annoyed and blow my horn at the guy in front of me simply because he was going 5 miles under the speed limit. Sure, in the immediate I rationalize that I am running behind and that the norm is to go at least the speed limit.
But in about an hour when I’ve had time to reflect on my actions, I realize I’m sorry for the way I behaved. Sorry for the example I set. And sorry for being angry at someone when they really didn’t do anything wrong.
In the latter example, had my husband yelled at me to say I’m Sorry to that other driver, I probably would have gotten angry with my husband.
OKAY SO SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE
Because I believe we want our children to SAY they are sorry, but more importantly we want them to BE sorry.
We want them to make amends but also to realize what true remorse is.
MY NEW PLAN OF ACTION
So here’s what I’ve been doing to make sure that when my girls say they are sorry, they actually mean it.
1. Discuss What Happened
So you got angry with me because I took away iPad privileges? Why did Mom do this? What actions did you do or not do that resulted in this consequence (in this case, not acknowledging me when I called her name 3 times).
2. Take Some Time
In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult for an adult, let alone a child, to recognize their own wrong doing. Maybe it’s the anger and perhaps maybe it’s the embarrassment that comes from knowing you are in the wrong…but at this point, a few moments of reflection can do a world of good.
3. Come Back Together And Discuss Again….Except This Time Let Your Child Lead
Kids are smart – waaaaay smarter than we give them credit for. After you have done steps 1 and 2, have a discussion with your child in which HE OR SHE LEADS the conversation.
Prompt her with these questions:
- Tell me what happened earlier (let her finish her version of the story)
- Do you think you did anything wrong?
- Do you feel there were other factors that led you to make the wrong choice (i.e. your sister is driving you crazy copying every single word out of your mouth to name one example that happens a lot in our house)
- Do you think you made a good choice?
- How do you think the other person feels?
- What should you do now?
4. Help Your Child Follow Up With An Apology
You’ve discussed the issue, your child has had time to think about their actions and become accountable for them. Now it’s time to make things right with the other person…whether that is a parent, a sibling, a friend.
Taking responsibility for your actions and saying “I’m Sorry” is a critical skill for the real world.
A heartfelt apology will carry you far because people realize that everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone is truly sorry.
By not forcing an apology but by following these 4 steps, your child will be among those special few.
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