7 Simple Steps For Teaching Kids How to Apologize and Actually Mean It

Redheaded child mesmerized.Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

If adults need to apologize (And who would argue that?), then the art of apology needs to be learned in childhood. Here are the steps we recommend for parents, grandparents, and teachers:

  1. Help kids to accept responsibility for their own actions. Our adult patterns of sweeping issues under the rug and shifting blame can often be traced all the way back to childhood habits. My own two-year old son passed gas and then blamed it on his diaper, saying, “My diaper burped!”
  2. Teach toddlers that their actions affect others. When you pull our pet’s tail, you hurt him.  When you rub our cat’s whiskers, he purrs.
  3. Instill the concept that there are always rules in life. The most important rule is the Golden Rule – treat others the way you would like for them to treat you. But there are other rules; many rules, and most them are designed to help us have a good life.
  4. Dole out consistent consequences when the rules are broken.  Obedience is learned by suffering the consequences of disobedience.  It develops in the child a sense of morality: some things are right and some things are wrong. When I do right, there are good results. When I do wrong, there are negative results. It is this sense of morality that helps the child understand the need for an apology.
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  5. Teach kids that apologies are necessary in order to maintain good relationships. When I hurt other people by my words or my behavior, I have established a barrier between myself and that person. If I don’t learn to apologize, the barrier will remain and my relationship with that person will be fractured.
  6. Model apologies by sharing stories about how you’ve made amends to others and by apologizing to them as needed.
  7. Coach your children on all five of these languages of apology. You can read more about these in the book I co-authored with Gary Chapman, When Sorry Isn’t Enough:”

Expressing Regret: “I am sorry.”

Accepting Responsibility: “I was wrong.”

Making Restitution: “What can I do to make it right?”

Genuinely Repenting: “I want to change.”

Requesting Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?”

English: Israel, Gan-Samuel - Children in the ...

Your Turn:

What would you include in a book on apologies?

 

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