I read an interesting blog post in AFineParent.com, written by Jennifer Poindexter. It was 5 Simple Ways to Teach Kids How to Apologize Sincerely.
She did a good job of explaining how to teach our kids to apologize sincerely without forcing them to say the words, “I’m sorry,” as a get-out-of-jail-free card. But as I read through the steps, I wondered how many parents actually know what apologizing sincerely means. If adults have trouble saying we’re sorry and meaning it, how can we teach our children to do it right.
She tackles the problem of our own pride first. How can we possibly teach our children to humble themselves and apologize if we don’t know how to humble ourselves first?
We may have trouble saying we’re sorry if we feel like we had the right to act as we did. Maybe it was our right, but did we exercise that right in a wrong way or with a wrong attitude? I’ve had to say to my children, “What you did was wrong. I was not wrong to correct you for that. But I was angry and I corrected you in the wrong way.” Wow, that is humbling, but it is the necessary first step to getting back on a good footing with our kids.
Even while we struggle with pride, we can still teach our children. They learn how to overcome their pride as we tell them how we deal with our own pride. We can tell our children it is hard for us to say we’re sorry, but we know it is good to recognize our own mistakes and do our part to make things right.
When we genuinely apologize to our children, they get to feel the healing power of those words. When they know how it feels, they will be more willing to follow our example instead of muttering or grumbling the word, “Sorry!”
Jennifer’s second step is to help them sort out emotions involved. To sincerely apologize we need to recognize the emotions of the one we offended as well as our own. Children, and a lot of adults, have a hard time putting a name to emotions. Helping them identify the feelings can help them understand the need to apologize.
We can help them to know the emotions they feel are OK for a short while, but they need to deal with them and move forward.
If this is your problem, stop the next time your emotions are bubbling up and your words start flying out your mouth. Take a few minutes and sort through what just happened and how it made you feel. Admitting you have those emotions and deciding how to act will help you respond better in the future.
Her third point was to allow them to make the choice to apologize. Wow, how many of us hold our mate’s or our friend’s feet to the fire if they don’t apologize as quickly as we think they should. We may have been forcing apologies from our kids and yet giving our husband or wife the silent treatment until they say the words. An apology cannot be sincere if it is demanded before they are ready.
Her fourth point is that an apology is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. An apology doesn’t un-do what happened. When we’ve hurt someone with our words or actions, the apology in itself doesn’t take the hurt away. But a genuine apology lets them know we realize we’ve hurt them and we will try really hard not to do that again. So our words help to heal the hurt.
Jennifer’s final point is that we need to teach the Golden Rule. It is such a powerful relationship builder and maintainer! It is much easier to be sincere in our apologies when we truly think about the way we would want to be treated. She says, “Ultimately, that is the only way to get our children to realize the full weight of their actions and to feel remorse that will make them want to apologize.” Is the Golden Rule the foundation of your relationships?
We have done quite a bit of marriage counseling over the years. I think the most common reason for marital breakdown is unforgiveness. So many couples could forgive more easily and more quickly if the offending party knew how to apologize sincerely. I trust this will not be a problem for you and your spouse! Let’s practice genuine apologies while we teach our children how to apologize sincerely.