Apologising is an important social skill that allows us to acknowledge and take responsibility for our actions. As parents and caregivers, we often want to teach our children to apologise when they have hurt someone else. However, forcing children to say sorry may not be the most effective way to teach them about empathy and accountability.
Here are a few reasons why forcing children to say sorry can be ineffective:
When children are forced to apologise, they may not truly understand the impact of their actions or feel genuine remorse. This can lead to insincere apologies that are little more than empty words.
Missed chances for empathy
Apologising can be a powerful way to express empathy and repair relationships. However, if children are forced to apologise without understanding the impact of their actions, they may miss out on the opportunity to develop empathy and build stronger relationships with others.
We have a pool rule in our complex that only permits one family at a time in the swimming pool. It’s a terrible rule because every time one family goes for a swim, the kids gather around the pool gate and long to dip in. The first time this happened to us, my then 4-year-old kept telling them to go fetch their parents to bring them to the pool. Next thing, she took out her tongue on some of the kids, and I went a little cold.
It felt so mean that she did that, and she continued to swim like nothing just happened. I gently told her how the other kids might be feeling, and how they are also longing to get into the pool. She paused for a minute to process what I just told her, and a few minutes later, she said “mommy, I don’t wanna swim anymore.” I did not wait for her to explain because, at that point, I also needed to go back home.
I used that opportunity to teach her about empathy, and when she got it, she got it.
Reinforcement of negative behaviour
If children learn that apologising is simply a way to get out of trouble, they may come to see it as negative behaviour that can be used to manipulate others.
So, what can parents and caregivers do instead of forcing children to apologise?
Help children to understand how their behaviour has affected others and encourage them to express their feelings. This can help them to develop empathy and build stronger relationships with others.
Instead of forcing children to apologize, encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. This can help them to understand the impact of their behaviour and to make amends.
Model good behaviour
Children learn by example, so it is important to model good behaviour by apologizing when you have made a mistake. This can help children to understand the importance of apologizing and to develop a strong sense of accountability.
In conclusion, forcing children to apologize may not be the most effective way to teach them about empathy and accountability. Instead, parents and caregivers can encourage empathy, teach accountability, and model good behaviour to help children develop a strong sense of responsibility for their actions.