Helping Kids To Apologize

Helping your kids apologize, Project Want


Teaching a child to say - I'm sorry - isn't enough. That lets him off the hook too easily. Encouraging him to make amends conveys a stronger message. It emphasizes the importance of treating people fairly a value that will serve him well.


Insist that children make amends. 


At a recent family gathering, Amy and Marcus, four-year-old cousins were making castles out of wooden blocks. Sadly, Amy knocked over Marcus's castle, and he started to cry. Witnessing the scene, Amy's father, scolded his daughter and ordered her to apologize. Amy dutifully said, - I'm sorry. Then her dad took her aside and asked,”Do you know why you pushed over his blocks?” She told him that she was mad because Marcus's Castle was bigger than hers.


The dad told her, that though there was no excuse for destroying her cousins Castle, he could understand her feelings. Then he sent her back to play. The father's reaction was similar to that of many psychologically Savvy parents. He wanted his daughter to identify and express her feelings and to understand why she behaved as she did. That's okay, but it isn't enough. 


In order to help children internalize a sense of justice, parents need to encourage them to take some action to remedy a wrong. For example, Amy's dad might have suggested that she helped Marcus rebuild his castle or that she bring him a cookie as a gesture of apology.

 Helping your kids apologize, Project Want


Saying I'm sorry is pretty easy for a child, and it lets her off the hook without forcing her to think. Having a child make amends in a proactive way conveys a much stronger message.


If you're aware that your child has acted badly towards someone, help him think of a way to compensate. Maybe he can give one of his toys to a playmate whose toy he has damaged. Perhaps he could draw a picture for his sister after teasing her all day. 


Encouraging your child to make such gestures, you emphasize the importance of treating people fairly an essential value that will one day help him negotiate the complicated word world of peer group relationships.