An essential part of raising good, kind, and well-mannered kids is to teach our children how to apologize when they do something wrong properly, whether intentional or not. But, as toddlers, they will not understand this concept right away. It doesn't mean, however, that we don't encourage them to say sorry. They may not get what they did wrong fully, but making them will show they can't always have their way.
"Because kids are naturally self-centered, teaching them to apologize will help them realize that their actions can harm [and affect] others," Jill Chua-Sy, operations manager of Gymboree in TriNoma and Eastwood Mall, told SmartParenting.com.ph.
How do we teach our toddlers to say sorry? First of all, don't force the issue. "If you force your toddler into saying sorry, it becomes a different battle -- it may not be about the apology anymore," warns psychiatrist Dr. Ann Princess Grana-Nespral.
Child psychologist Laura Markham, the author of the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends For Life, explains in Yahoo Parentingthat forcing toddlers to apologize teaches "all the wrong lessons." Markham believes that when a person, even a child, is "forced to apologize before he or she is ready, it doesn't help repair the relationship at all."
What can you do when you find yourself in a situation where saying sorry is important? Educational researcher Sanya Pelini, Ph.D. provides the following tips in Parent.co:
#1 Let the feelings subside first If you try to explain to your child the situation and why he needs to apologize, he might have a hard time understanding it because he's still upset or angry. Let him calm down so he can take the time to think about what he's done. Make sure to follow through. Don't let the incident pass.
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#2 Keep your emotions in check "Remember that even when your child hurts another child, she’ll still think of herself as the wronged party," says Pelini. If you get mad, your child will feel sorry for himself more (remember he feels he was the wronged party). You need to be calm but firm.
#3 Focus on the situation Instead of telling your child to say sorry right off the bat, explain what happened and how the other child feels in words that she can understand. If she grabbed a toy from a playmate, tell her outright that she can't do that. She needs to ask, "May I borrow?"
#4 Empower your child to make amends When your child truly feels sorry, let him do so in his way: say sorry, hug, share a toy, draw or write a short note, give a flower. Sure, you can give him suggestions, but he needs to be comfortable with the decision. Let him know you agree with the way he's saying sorry.
#5 Model by example If you've tried a couple of times to encourage your child to say a meaningful apology, but she still wouldn't budge, then apologize for her. Tell a playmate whose toy your child grabbed, for example, that you are sorry for what your child did, and add that you're not sure why she did it. Make sure to tell her you will talk to your child about it. Your goal: make sure they can still play again.
"Children learn from us how to repair relationship ruptures," Markham writes in her book.
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Since your toddler at the age of 2 is mouthing "sorry" because of your lead, you may want to choose other words. You can say, "Help your friend feel better" or "How can we make your playmate stop crying?" These proactive words touch on emotions that your child can understand. It helps her see what if she was the one who was sad or crying.
Teaching our kids empathy or making them understand what the other child feels is the first step to a sincere apology.