Originally Posted by MusicianDad
Someone telling me they are sorry when they aren't doesn't make me feel better. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.
Someone NOT saying they are sorry when they are clearly in the wrong pisses me off. I'd rather have them fake remorse than not even bother to fake it. Obviously, true remorse is best (and I am not saying that fake remorse isn't also insulting), but sometimes you gotta fake it until you make it, ya know?
My concern for my kids is that not only do they learn core ethics about respectful treatment of others, but they also learn societal expectations and rules so that their actions won't be misinterpreted.
Now, of course the apology is not the end of the matter. As PPs have pointed out, if the apology is the "get out of jail card" then clearly, it is a pointless exercise. Remorse without restitution is meaningless. And restitution requires empathy.
So a big part of any apology has to be a method of attempting to make things right - a hug or an ice pack are great. Sometimes the restitution IS the apology - but I find that words are useful because they are more easily understood.
And of course, different ages are capable of different levels of empathy - and different children are capable of different levels of empathy as well. When I tell my 3 year old to apologize and to find a way to make it better, I am not expecting that he has the empathy to truly be remorseful right now, but I am trying to build up good habits so that when he does make an error in the future, he knows that he needs to express remorse, and then find a way to make it better.
And instructing a child to apologize does not need to be shameful - we often role play different interactions during quiet times so that my kids have words to use in emotionally charged situations - like when another child has hurt them and refuses to stop, or when my kids realize they have hurt someone.
Also as pp's have mentioned, dh and I model apologies with our kids and with other adults. So they see it as a normal form of human interaction. I do prompt them for an apology and make a recommendation for restitution as appropriate, just as I prompt them to use their tissue and not their sleeve, or to use please and thank you.
My 2 cents.
ETA: one element in my approach is the fact that my oldest has not great social skills - it takes him a looooooooonnnnnnnnggggg time to pick up on social mores that other children his age notice easily. So with him, we need to be a lot more explicit about social expectations because he just won't pick them up on his own - at least not until it is too late and he has lost friends. My second son absorbs social rules from the air, I swear. I don't need to be so explicit with him because he can watch the other person's face and body language and figure out what to say/do to make them happy.