Let’s admit it, most people aren’t very good at apologizing…especially kids. We teach them to talk like a robot reminding them “what do you say?” Apologizing is simply something you are supposed to do when you do something wrong. However, apologies are pointless unless people feel that the offender meant it. This can be tone of voice or even body language.
I had read about a formula for apologizing that I thought was good. I don’t know who the original creator of it is. It’s starts out with:
1) I’m sorry for – “I’m sorry for hitting you when you took my toy” It’s important to be specific and not just a broad “I’m sorry”. The child needs to understand what they are apologizing for.
2) This is wrong because – “I could have hurt you when I hit you”. They need to understand the reason why it’s not acceptable or why it is wrong.
3) In the future, I will – “Ask you nicely to have my toy back”. It is really important for the child to learn how to do it correctly. what are they learning from this?
4) Will you forgive me? – Be prepared they could say no, but at least ask. This helps restore the relationship.
I think for many situations, this formula can work…especially with young kids.
The most important thing is to lead by example. You need to apologize when you do something wrong and your kids need to see and hear it. This is the best way for them to learn.
While I like the formula, I would add some elements to it that i think are important. for example
1) You must have Empathy. I think empathy needs to be deployed all around. As the parent, the offender was feeling a certain way and didn’t know how to act. They are still learning what is correct behavior. “When you took your brother’s toy and broke it, how were you feeling? So you were angry? And you felt angry so you hit your brother?
Of course we need to empathize with the victim as they be be hurt. Ask the offender: “How do you think your brother felt when you hit him? Would you want to feel like that?
2) Make Amends – While sorry is good, what could you do to fix the situation or help? For example, “You hit your brother, how can you fix the situation”? This could be in the form of go and getting an ice pack, a hug, or even having the child do something for their brother to make up for it.
3) Next Time – What is the learning experience? We all make mistakes and mistakes are ok. If you are to be in this situation again, what would you do differently?
Saying and being sorry isn’t easy. However if we model this behavior for our kids and help them through the process, they are going to be better equipped to have empathy for others and admit when they have done something wrong. They will probably be better off afterward as well.