Whenever my kids do something over the line, my first instinct is to say, “You apologize right now!” If I don’t correct their behavior right away, I feel like I’m failing as a parent. Of course, this is usually the worst time to teach them. Their minds are too activated, and even if you can get them to apologize, they won't actually mean it.
So how do you get your kids to apologize with sincerity? Here’s a few tips I’ve collected over the years.
WAIT FOR HIM TO CALM DOWN
Once his emotions are calm, he’s more likely to actually “hear” you. And as he gets older, he’ll have a better understanding of how his actions hurt others. He’ll naturally feel remorse, and you can use this to help guide him to make better decisions in the future.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Okay, this one’s hard for me, because I’ve been known to lose my cool. But this just models poor behavior. If mom and dad lose it, then so can they! Next time you feel you’re about to explode, leave the room and take a few moments to calm down. Show them that you control your emotions, not the other way around. When you return, let them see that apologizing is a sign of strength, not weakness. And just as important, you won't hate yourself for saying something you don't mean.
SOMETHING BETTER THAN “I’M SORRY.”
Getting your child to apologize is great. But then again, those are just two words. Getting her to show remorse can be even more powerful. Ask her to write a short note, explaining exactly what she’s sorry about, with ways that she can prevent this from happening again in the future. This exercise will require her to put a little thought into it, and because of that, it’ll probably stick with her.
SKIP THE PUNISHMENT
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes actions should have consequences. But other times, it might not be necessary. Let’s say your child threw a tantrum, launching plates of food all over the kitchen. A natural punishment would be to make him clean up the kitchen. But when your child is calm, you can reframe it as a positive. Ask him what he can do to make things right. Most likely, he'll offer to clean up the kitchen. Either way, the kitchen gets cleaned. But in this scenario, he'll likely feel less resentment about it. That's good for both of you!
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