Forcing your child to apologize feels like a lesson in lying, but skipping the “sorry” seems like a big thumbs up to bad behavior. The solution: make apologies meaningful by helping your child understand how and why their behavior was wrong.
Discover the cause. If you weren’t present, ask, “What happened that led you to break Tara’s tower?” If you saw it happen, acknowledge the events that led to the offense. “I know you were upset that Tara used the best blocks, but . . .”
Encourage accountability. Keep things simple with toddlers: “Tara is sad because you broke her tower.” Begin to teach empathy to 4- to 5-year-olds: “I know you wanted to use the blocks, but you made Tara sad when you broke her tower.” Older kids are capable of empathizing; link that to accountability by saying something like, “Tara worked hard on her tower. How did you make her feel when you broke it?”
Deal with the effect. Encourage kids to own the problem and come up with the solution. Ask your school age child, “What could you say or do to make her feel better?” and prompt your toddler, “We say sorry when we break things or make people sad.”
Model repentance and forgiveness. Say “sorry” to your kids when you’ve spilled their milk or doodled on their work—and demonstrate forgiveness when they do the same things to you!