Teaching Your Child How to Make a Real Apology
Making an apology requires more than mumbling, “Sorry.” Experts tell us that’s not an apology at all, and neither is a statement like, “Sorry, stupid.”
Children often utter that two-syllable apology when prompted, but there’s no real sincerity behind the word.
How can you teach your child how to apologize and mean it?
How to make an apology
According to Girls and Boystown behaviorists, we must teach children the steps in making an apology.
Boystown offers these four steps to help children make their apologies:
- “Look at the person.
- State why you are sorry.
- Make a follow-up statement.
- Thank the person for listening.”
Each step has a rationale, and it helps children with a scaffolded response upon which to rely in a possibly anxious situation. The apology must be more than a scripted recitation. Saying the apology sincerely and meaning the words are the best action to take when a child has hurt someone else.
Not everyone, however, feels comfortable with this four-step apology. Some parents prefer more organic methods of apologizing. Try these approaches:
Use good timing
Avoid forcing your child to apologize while she’s still mad.
The apology won’t sound sincere, and your daughter will likely re-engage in the behavior that got her in trouble in the first place. Instead, let her cool down before she apologizes.
Avoid forcing your child to apologize. Positive Parenting suggests allowing your child to make his apology in the way and timing that seems most natural to him. Following a scripted response can seem unnatural to children.
Actions are louder than words
You see celebrities in the news making inappropriate remarks, apologizing for them, and then continuing their repugnant behavior. It’s as though they never meant the apology in the first place.
The best-delivered apologies are meaningless if the offender reverts to the same behavior he committed before the apology.
Be the example
Children learn by imitating what they see and hear. You can instruct your child to make an apology by modeling the behavior yourself.
Some adults feel as though making an apology means giving up control, but the opposite is true. Apologizing puts the person making the apology in a position of confidence and strength. Owning up to errors might not be easy, but teaching your children what to do when mistakes happen is a valuable life lesson they will carry with them forever.
What if the other person won’t accept the apology?
Not all apologies get accepted, and that’s okay.
Teach your children that if they have apologized, they’ve done the right thing. It’s up to the other person to accept the apology. Forgiveness can’t be forced.
The important thing is that your child learned how to make a real apology.