This Is Why We MUST Not Force Little Children to Say Sorry, & Do This Instead

Teaching Children how to Apologise

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As our children navigate through the expectations of society, we want to ensure they grow up to be kind and thoughtful. We teach them to say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ in an effort to teach them values and make sure they grow up to be empathetic individuals. However, we might be making a major mistake by forcing them to say ‘sorry’ – and actually end up doing more harm than good to their personality! Yes, it’s true. Child development experts do NOT recommend forcing your little one to apologize for a very strong reason.

Toddlers are at an age where they are learning more about the world every day! They’ll have tantrums for the funniest of reasons, throw themselves down on the floor in the middle of the mall, and scream their lungs out. They’ll snatch toys they want from some other kids who’ll then be left crying. They’ll spit out food and undress themselves at the most random of times. Try as we might to discipline our child using different techniques, they are bound to not listen. In the middle all of these ‘toddler tantrums’ (that are completely normal), we sometimes try to force them to say sorry or apologize. They might comply or they might not. Most days we wish for them to be ‘easy’ and just say sorry. But by forcing them to do this, we are actually encouraging them to say sorry without feeling sorry!

Why We Shouldn’t Force Kids to Say Sorry

As per child psychologists, toddlers have an underdeveloped ability to feel empathy, or understanding another person’s point of view. It is an important social skill, but it is one of the last social skills to develop, and this results in most toddlers and preschoolers showing a lack of empathy. When they can’t understand how the other person feels, they can’t feel bad for their actions that hurt them. Consequently, the ‘sorry’ that they do say will be without meaning and basically teaches them two things:
  • To lie
  • To say sorry as a formality to get out of trouble!
These two things are surely not what we want our kids to learn! While we do need to teach them values, forcing them to apologize might actually be counter-productive.

Also Read Why Adults Should Never Have to Say Sorry to a Child.

The Best Ways to Teach Children to Apologise

So okay, we shouldn’t force kids to say sorry because we don’t want them to grow up with a lack of empathy. However, that doesn’t mean that they should ‘get off easy’ when they make a mistake. It is important to help our kids understand when they have done something wrong or hurt someone with their actions. What should you do then?
Experts recommend parents to follow two simple steps to teach kids to apologise:

1. Lead By Example

Teaching children to apologize and mean it comes by showing them how to go about it. The next time your child’s actions require an apology to be issued, go ahead and say sorry on your little one’s behalf. Chances are you’re genuinely sorry and your child will notice this and understand why one should say sorry.

Also, do not hesitate in saying sorry if you have done something wrong. Parents can make mistakes too, such as raising their voice, or using rude words while talking to someone. When the kids see you apologizing for improper behavior, they will learn from you and follow your lead.

2. Talk to Your Child About Empathy

If your child snatches a toy from another child, apologize to the child and his mother. Next, talk to your child about how the child felt. You could ask your child what they would feel if you did the same to them.

Also talk to your child about alternate ways they could’ve acted to get what they wanted, such as politely asking the other kid if they could play with his/her toy for a short while.

3. Pair Actions With Consequences, But With The Right Punishment

Children learn what is good and what is bad by understanding what consequences each action has. In order to help them become more thoughtful, making them face certain consequences for any negative actions will help them refrain from repeating these actions. For e.g. the next time your toddler pushes another kid down on the playground, cut the time they get on the playground as a consequence and let them know the reason.

Remember however, consequences need to be related to action, raising your hand on your child will just drive fear not thoughtfulness.

4. Catch Them When They’re ‘Being Good’

Just as you’re punishing your child with consequences for his negative actions, positive reinforcement for ‘being good’ should also be rewarded to encourage understanding of good and bad behaviour.

If, after your talk with your child, you see a change in his behaviour as he tries to be kind to the other child, make sure he knows your appreciation by making statements like ‘You’re being a good boy by doing this.’

So, the next time your little one makes a mistake, try doing one of these four things instead of getting out a forced apology. This will go a long way in inculcating empathy as a value in a child.
After all, that’s what most of us want at the end of the day – for our children to grow up to be nice, kind and thoughtful individuals! Take care.