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Why We Don’t Force “Sorry”

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

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 may actually end up doing more harm than good to their personality! Yes, it’s true. Child development experts do NOT recommend forcing children 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 and they might throw themselves down on the floor in the middle of the mall and scream their lungs out. They might snatch toys they want from some other kids who’ll then be left crying. They might 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 understand another person’s point of view. It is an important social skill, but it is also 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.

The Best Ways to Teach Children to Apologize

We shouldn’t force kids to say sorry because we don’t want them to grow up with a lack of empathy. Having said that, children should not ‘get off easily’ 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 apologize:

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. Teach Your Child That Their Wrong Actions Will Have Consequences

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. Reward Them When They Do Good and Are ‘Being Good’

Praising your child for their good actions can motivate them to continue with such actions. Positive reinforcement for ‘being good’ should also be rewarded to encourage understanding of good and bad behavior. 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 child 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.