Apologizing can mend and heal relationships or it can add fuel to the flame. Teaching children, and ourselves, how to genuinely apologize lends to self-growth and strong, healthy relationships.
Following are tips on how to teach the art of apologizing to children:
Illustrate it as parents – Let’s face it, there are times even parents need to apologize and ask for forgiveness from their kids. One of the most important ways to teach the art of apologizing is to model it. Do not be afraid to apologize for yelling or blowing up in a time of stress or frustration. Your children will learn that everybody makes mistakes and the importance of an apology as a recipient.
Include the why – As you teach your child how to apologize, include the reason for each apology. Instead of letting them off with a simple “sorry,” require an, “I’m sorry I took the toy from you” or “I’m sorry I did such-and-such after you told me not to.” This will especially help pre-schoolers understand what they did to warrant the apology. Talk it through with them if they still don’t seem to understand completely.
Forgiveness follows – Apologies are about more than saying “sorry.” To teach genuine and sincere apologies, model and teach forgiveness as well. Don’t hold that tantrum from yesterday against them and remind your child to make peace with their friends. Making peace in relationships is one purpose of an apology.
Redo – While you cannot turn back time and let your child make the right decision, you can ask them what they think they should have done and what they would do if they are in the same situation again. Correct them if they don’t know. Walk through the scenario so they will be ready to share a toy or express their feelings verbally next time.
Act of kindness – Kids often learn by doing, so to make an apology more than just words they say from obligation have them clean the mess they made or create something for the friend they hurt.
Clean up their mess – For older children who may be experiencing bigger mistakes, have them clean or fix up what they have done. For example, if they break something of someone else’s, have them earn the money to replace it or spend the time it takes to fix it.
Help them out – According to parents.com, as kids grow older, they are increasingly more aware of relationships and acceptance, making it more difficult to humble themselves in apology. Parents.com gives these steps to help your older children (6 and up) in the art of apology:
- Stay neutral – have all children involved apologize
- Do it together – go with your child in support
- Keep your own anger in check
- Beware if it is too easy – remind them that an apology needs to be sincere
Cool off time – If your child is just too upset to apologize, allow them some time to cool off and apologize later. This can look like time out or a cool down walk that helps them calm down from the incident and gain some personal perspective to be able to deliver a sincere and genuine apology later.
Change the behavior – One part of an apology that will be learned through illustration and parent modeling is the fact that an apology for the same offense again and again can quickly lose its meaning and sincerity. Remind your children, and model it in your own apologies to them, that learning from their mistakes means learning from their mistakes – sharing with friends, not hitting others when they get upset, not throwing a tantrum when they do not get their way, etc.
Include feelings – When talking to your child about an incident include how you think they must have felt, “It probably made you mad when Tommy took your toy,” then remind them that Tommy also has feelings, “It hurt Tommy and probably made him sad when you hit him.” Including feelings of both your child and any others involved in the incident can help them understand the situation and the need for a sincere apology.
The art of an apology is indeed an art and therefore will take time and practice for your children to learn. Have patience with them and continue to teach through each situation and incident. What they learn about apologies and forgiveness can help them greatly all the way into adulthood.
Sources: parents.com, parenting.com, askdrsears.com, positiveparentingsolutions.com
April Lynn Newell, a San Antonio based freelance writer, is expecting her first child.