Teach your kid how to apologize

March 14, 2021

Upset little girl

Written by Anna Bauer

We, adults find it very difficult to admit when we err and deliver a sincere apology. To be frank, my husband has never apologized to me for anything(without me clearly asking for it or explaining to him that he owes one). Maybe he has never done something to apologize for? In 10 years I assure you that there should be plenty of episodes worthy of apologies. It’s just that, for many people, it seems a difficult mission. Of course, over the years, one develops the maturity and tactics to apologize for something, even without spelling “I am sorry”. But how about kids, who have yet to develop those tactics?

There are four elements that are important in the apologizing process, and that you should take care to properly learn/explain to your kid. Once you do this, you will equip your child with a core life skill.

  1. When we apologize. We apologize when we hurt someone physically or emotionally or when we break a rule of social conduct. In either situation, despite your acknowledgment that what you did was wrong or not.
  2. Why we apologize. We apologize for two reasons:1.To let know that you hurt someone or something unintentionally 2. to let the other know that you have become aware of the other’s discomfort and are open to communication and possible corrective actions. If your kid pushes someone because he is on his way to the playground simply saying “Sorry’ and continuing to walk means absolutely nothing. When someone says “I am sorry” you are opening communication, and you should wait for the other’s response. Does he accept your apology? Is he/she fine after what you did? Is there anything you could do to help or correct the consequence of your action? In the above example, one appropriate course of events would be: Sorry! I did not see you. Are you hurt(while directing a helping hand, if the other kid fell). In the end, when you are in person with your child, you explain to him that he should learn from his mistakes and make his best not to do that again.
  3. How we apologize. ‘I am sorry if I said something that made you feel offended’-comes very spontaneous to us adults. But unfortunately, it does not address the problem. In fact, this type of answer may offend the person even more. You are basically saying that you said or did something, but you are not responsible for the other person’s mood or how he perceived what you said.
    Take some time to think about what happened from different angles and be empathic and responsible. “I really wish it didn’t happen at all.”, “I wish I had been more considerate/thoughtful of your feelings as well.”, “I am really sorry for the way I made you feel. I should know better”, “Is there anything I can do, so that you accept my apology?” For kids, this can be simplified to: I am sorry. How can I help? How can I make it up to you? Can we just be friends again?
  4. How to react to unapologetic people. No matter what you teach to your child, sooner o later your kid will meet unapologetic people or people who will not accept apologies no matter how patient, kind and polite you react. Teach your kid that when he has sincerely apologized and offered help, if the other person ignores or reacts negatively, to simply step out of that situation. With time he will learn and develop more elaborate communication skills. But for the time being, just stepping out of negativity will be just fine. Encourage him/her to share with you how his/her day was. What did they do or something happened. Try getting more insight into his social life, you will be able to feed him with a richer dictionary and social skills.
    When your kid encounters unapologetic people, you should teach him to immediately tell you. You should approach the other kid himself by suggesting that he apologizes and if no avail, go to his parent. This type of behavior can be the source of a lot of misbehaviors. The most problematic of all of them, bullying. Of course, you may encounter non-collaborative parents, but at least your child will learn the degree this behavior is unacceptable. And you can always escalate to teachers, and so on.
    Your child should know that you are by his side when he does something wrong but you are even closer when someone does something wrong to him.

Always remember, it is civic to apologize, but also you should not apologize for everything. So make sure to teach your child to step up too, just make sure to make the limits clear and be there for him.

There is no easy way. This is a life-skill. If you can teach him/her to be mindful of what they say when they open the mouth, they will be on a good path.

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