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learning to apologize

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
DD is 4 and is just learning that sometimes her strong body and big movements can hurt people and that when that happens the expectation is that she will apologize. We are teaching her to look the person in the eye and say "I'm sorry I..." Sometimes she would prefer to have a complete meltdown instead of just saying "I'm sorry I kicked you in the face, mama."

Is it unreasonable to expect a 4yo to be able to say I'm sorry? How can I help her learn this while being both firm about it and not punitive? I really think she is mature enough to handle this, but maybe I'm wrong, since sometimes this turns into a huge problem. I don't want it to spiral into her having any tension or problems having to do with giving apologies.
post #2 of 10
In our house this gets solved in either 1 of 2 ways.

1) We say something like "Hmmmmm, it seems like you aren't in a mood to be a part of things right now. You need to go to your room until you're ready to follow the social rules." Most of the time our kids will go on their own, sometimes we need to help them. They are free to come back whenever they want, but they need to apologize (in words or actions of their choice) before they can rejoin the family. Sometimes they will spend a minute in their room and sometimes an hour.

2) If it's a time when an apology is time sensitive (like another kid at the playground) we will apologize for them. "I'm sorry that James hurt you." Then, depending on how the kid is acting they either run off to play or we will go home.
post #3 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecoteat View Post
Is it unreasonable to expect a 4yo to be able to say I'm sorry?
Yep, I think so. Apologizing - admitting one was wrong - involves putting oneself in a vulnerable position, and that's especially hard for 4 year olds, who are just starting to see how they fit in the world and how small and powerless they really are (superheroes often get big at this age, for this reason).

Model sincerely apologizing to others (and to her) and wait...
post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dar View Post
Yep, I think so. Apologizing - admitting one was wrong - involves putting oneself in a vulnerable position, and that's especially hard for 4 year olds, who are just starting to see how they fit in the world and how small and powerless they really are (superheroes often get big at this age, for this reason).

Model sincerely apologizing to others (and to her) and wait...
This.

Also modeling manners works really well. We've never asked for an apology just modeled apologizing to each other and DD. My DD started apologizing when she was 3. She usually needed a couple of hours to calm down from whatever the incident was and often wanted to talk about it for abit. If she felt the adult reacted rudely or got angry she expected an apology too. She didn't always apologize and sometimes she would say something like "I'm sorry I shouted at you" when she hadn't for a day or two, so sometimes it took a day or two. Now at almost 5 she usually apologizes right away, unless she's angry and then it's right after she calms down. She also says "I'm sorry" as an expression of sympathy (I'm sorry you feel bad).

I think demanding an apology undermines the child developing feelings of sympathy and the process of dealing with the big emotion of remorse. An apology doesn't really mean anything unless it's sincere anyway.

Does your DD hear adults apologizing to her and each other and expressing sympathy?
post #5 of 10
I agree that 4 is probably too young to be expected to come out with a sincere apology. At that age, we suggested either an apology or helping the person feel better (hug, ice). Apologizing was hard for my ds, especially when he'd made a mistake. Partly it was embarrassment, partly it was that he didn't see the need to apologize when it was 'just' a mistake.

I would argue, however, that there are two kinds of apologies that children need to learn. They need to learn the sincere apology. That is best learned through modeling.

But, they need to learn the social apology, which is really just the 'sorry' that people expect to hear. This is the 'sorry' you say when you bump into someone. It needs to come quickly and automatically. I don't see any reason not to prompt for this.
post #6 of 10
Modeling has worked really really well for us.Although it was not intentional. DD apologizes really nicely quite often for misbehavior simply b/c we apologize to her and each other.

We are still working on the 'social bump' apology though.

V
post #7 of 10
The way I see it, Forcing to sorry is often forcing to lie when a child is very young and is just empty words if the emotion, empathy and true meaning is not behind it.

I agree that modelling works. We do say sorry, we help others feel better, we help rectify situations.

If someone gets hurt, we figure out a way to help the person feel better, show empathy etc... When my older kids say sorry, they mean it and you can feel it. DS3 is starting but is not there yet..
post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
I would argue, however, that there are two kinds of apologies that children need to learn. They need to learn the sincere apology. That is best learned through modeling.
: We model since early on the social apology when bumping or otherwise hurting someone...and we prompted the kids to say it when they did, too - something like, 'when you accidentally hurt someone, it's polite to say sorry even if it was an accident...you can even say it was an accident or mistake'

SO we hear that in the house a fair amount here...


"HEY! OW!!!"
"Oops, sorry, it was a mistake!"
"OK. Watch OUT."

- Now, we have the occasional pile driver or half nelson that was NOT a mistake being turned into a "mistake" - but we're taking that as just a sibling thing since it's never done to really harm or injure. And we call them out when it was clearly not a mistake.

as others mentioned, if they had a hard time with it we would apologize for them in the situation and then in a quiet moment later we'd talk about how acknowledging to someone that you hurt them even if it was accidental shows them you care about them. And that saying sorry doesn't mean that you did something bad, that you can be sorry that they got injured at all...you can feel badly/sorry for someone being hurt and that's not the same as accepting blame/fault in a negative way. KWIM?
post #9 of 10
I don't believe in forced apologies but I don't think that it is unreasonable to expect a four year old will feel empathy for you and show or tell you she is sorry she accidently hurt you. All kids develop this at different rates, but even young kids often are very empathetic towards people who are hurt. I have seen a lot of forced apologies in the daycares I have worked in and the kids seem to learn to say a grumpy sorry that doesn't mean anything, the violence doesn't seem to be affected at all by just having to say sorry, and they get defensive instead of empathetic when they accidently hurt someone because they see sorry as the punishment rather than as a nice thing to do for someone who is hurt. I have always believed in modeling empathy along with the actions and words that commonly go with it in our society. This worked for my dd from a very young time. Now that I am in a center with a lot of forced apology and seeing the effects of this I am more strongly committed to not forcing apologies.
post #10 of 10
Maybe you can help give her other words instead of "I'm sorry". Maybe if she has a choice of words or ways?

"Oops.. I didn't mean to do that"

"Are you O.K?" <--I actually require that one from my daycare kids. It doesn't have to be sincere, but if they hurt someone, accidentally or on purpose, they need to take care of what they did. They ask if the child is OK, and maybe get a wet paper towel or bring the ice pack to the child. But, they don't get to skip off happily while the victim cries. They help me, help them.

She's not too young to apologize. Even at 18 months, they can have some way of apologizing, if it's just a soft pat on the back, or the actual words.

She might also be embarrassed by kicking someone, so in that case, it's OK to apologize for her.
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