Learning to Apologize

There are lots of reasons to apologize.  Mean words have been said, thoughtless actions have been taken, no action has been taken at all, the list could go on and on.  We’ve had an especially active week of apologizing at my house.  Perhaps it’s the lack of routine and structure that goes along with the holiday week, or maybe it’s just all the junk food that has been consumed.  Whatever the reason, we’ve had lots of practice apologizing this week.

So, how do we teach our kids to apologize.  What’s more, how do we work on the skill as adults?  It’s certainly something we all need to do from time to time.

Make it quick.  For apologies to be meaningful, they need to happen pretty quickly.  Not necessarily right away, as it’s good to think about what you want to say in your apology and actually feel genuine about it, but within a day or two for sure.

Make it brief.  There’s generally no need to go on and on with our apologies.  Short and sweet can be the most effective.  “I’m sorry.  I was wrong” can be very effective. Luckily short apologies tend to be easier to offer, too, especially for little ones.

Write it down.  One of my favorite ways to get kids to apologize and really focus on the meaning behind the apology is to write a letter.   If your family is extra creative, you can even include a hand drawn picture.  The other good thing about an apology letter is that it can be saved and used at a later time, as in: “Remember when you had to write this letter apologizing for having a bad attitude?  Do you really want to have to do that again?”

Say it often.  I have written many times about the importance of apologizing as a parent.  Giving our kids the opportunity to watch us apologize (to our partner, our neighbors, our friends, our children) demonstrates to them how to make a good apology happen.  I think it’s also true that the more we say “I’m sorry” the easier it becomes.


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