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Beyond “I'm Sorry”: 5 Tips for Making Your Child's Apologies Meaningful

Beyond “I'm Sorry”: 5 Tips for Making Your Child's Apologies Meaningful

Beyond “I'm Sorry”: 5 Tips for Making Your Child's Apologies Meaningful

Teaching kids to treat others appropriately is certainly one of a parent’s trickiest jobs—and learning how to make amends when your child is unkind to another is a big part of that. Circle of Moms member Samantha, makes her daughter apologize after a scuffle with a playmate but she’s concerned that her daughter isn’t really learning the lesson. “She says she’s sorry but I don’t think it phases her a bit!”, this mom reports. 

Samantha is probably right. Forcing kids to begrudgingly issue apologies may make parents feel better, but both kids know that justice hasn’t truly been served with a halfhearted apology. More importantly, you miss the opportunity to help your child resolve the conflict in a more positive way in the future. 

Fortunately, there are several key things you can do to help your child learn a lesson from her misbehavior and guide her future actions, even while making amends to the other child. Once everyone is calmed down from the incident, follow these five steps:

1. Avoid Punishing or Shaming Your Child

When your daughter hits someone or grabs a toy out of another child’s hands, your first response might be to yell, put her in timeout or even give her a little swat on the bottom. The problem is that none of these reactions actually help your daughter learn a lesson—they only make her feel bad about herself and put her on the defensive. Let her know instead that while what she did was wrong, she now has the opportunity to “make it right.”

2. Ask Questions; Don’t Lecture

Rather than giving a lecture that will likely fall on deaf ears, teach your child to process her emotions and take responsibility for her actions by helping her identify and label her feelings. Ask, “How were you feeling before you hit Abby?” Or, for younger kids, say “Wow, you looked really angry before you hit Abby.” Reinforce that while the feeling is okay, the behavior that followed wasn’t.

3. Connect the Feeling to the Action

Help your child learn that her actions have a real effect on other people by asking, “When you felt angry and hit Abby, how did that make her feel?”  This reinforces that angry feelings are okay but what we do with those feelings can hurt someone else.

4. Make it Right

Hold a mini-brainstorming session with your daughter to figure out a way for her to make amends to her friend. A verbal apology may be appropriate if it’s truly genuine and from the heart, but it could be that drawing a picture, sharing a favorite toy or offering a hug would do a better job of making the injured party feel better.

5. Role-play a Redo

Finish your daughter’s important life lesson by coming up with a few more constructive ways to handle a similar situation next time, and then practicing them through role-play. Once she’s comfortable negotiating disagreements with her stuffed animals and dolls, she’ll be more likely to use positive conflict resolution tactics in the future.

Treat each conflict as a learning opportunity, and soon you’ll begin to notice fewer of them. When they do happen, you’ll love watching your daughter demonstrate true empathy as she works to make amends. That means better playdates now—and stronger relationships throughout her life.

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.

"Pay It Forward" to a Military Family

Amy McCready is partnering with Blue Star Families in an initiative called “Pay it Forward Parenting.” For every book purchased, McCready and Positive Parenting Solutions will donate an online parenting training course to a deserving military family. For more information on this charity initiative, visit  

Image Source: butupa via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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