To Be or Not to Be Sorry

Is your kid really sorry?

Cherylyn Feierabend
4-minute read
Episode #118

Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting.

Thank you to Andrea who wrote in to ask for techniques on convincing her son to apologize. I’ve been researching this topic and was surprised to find out that it’s actually quite controversial. I had no idea. I’m definitely one of those moms who asks her children to apologize for bad behavior. It never occurred to me that there are parents out there who feel that this isn’t something we should force upon our children. I’m not saying these parents are telling their kids not to apologize; they simply aren’t forcing them to do so. I’m not taking sides in this matter, but will share with you what I feel I’ve learned through my research. Opinions are what they are and everybody is entitled to their own, right?

Learning to Apologize

Children do things that sometimes hurt other people. It happens. When kids are genuinely sorry for what they’ve done, they will most likely want to express themselves. Teaching a child to apologize and share his or her feelings is important. Sometimes children don’t understand why they are made to apologize and simply follow the instructions given by a parent. It’s more important that a child learn to respect other people’s feelings than to just learn to say the words, “I’m sorry.” Learning to say “sorry” isn’t very helpful if your child doesn’t understand or mean it. When you are dealing with toddlers, sometimes even up to the age of three, you are dealing with little people who still believe the world revolves around them. They don’t yet understand that other people have feelings too. For example, if they see a toy they want to play with, they might very well just go and take it out of the hands of one of their playmates. They might see their playmate get upset, cry, or try to take the toy back, but they will not necessarily feel any compassion for their friend. As parents we tend to say things like, “Give the toy back to your friend and say sorry.” That’s what I’ve always done and my kids have always complied. Well, almost always. Just because they did as they were told, doesn’t mean they understood what was going on. It’s important that you talk to your child about what is happening so that he can understand.