Long story short: my DS (3.5) deliberately broke a family tambourine that we all play with (we have family jam sessions). Lately, this tambourine has become associated with his baby sister, b/c she likes to play with it during these sessions. Today, he stepped on it and it broke.
Both DH and I have lots of sentimental attachment to the tambourine (we got it as a wedding gift) and so we told DS that it made us sad, we felt really disappointed, etc. We also empathized with jealousy of his sister and tried to offer other ways to express it.
In general, we have never mandated "I'm sorry" -- since true empathy doesn't come until later and we didn't want to create artificiality around such a phrase.
So it was beautiful and mind-blowing to watch DS absorb our sadness and say in a voice that felt very real, "I'm sorry I broke the tambourine."
So ... would you leave it at that? I had told him (before his apology) that b/c he broke the tambourine, we'd donate money from his next toy to a new tambourine that he and I would go buy. But frankly, we don't have that kind of money and I'm wondering if his sorry is sufficient, since it wasn't an artificial, "get out of trouble quick" kind of apology.
What do you think?