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Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word…

When us as adults  apologise, our children see this as us being fair and that we are trying to understand and listen to them.

When us as adults apologise, our children see this as us being fair and that we are trying to understand and listen to them.

By Anne Goldsmith, owner of Behaviour First Consultancy.

How many times do we ask our children to say they are sorry?  How many times do we ‘make’ children apologise for something they have said or done? But what about adults?

But it often comes out in an insincere way, doesn’t it? They don’t really mean it, because they have been told to say it.

As a parent and a teacher, I always ‘ask’ children to say sorry, although I insist on taking it a step further.  I ask children to be specific.  Saying sorry is easy and doesn’t really mean anything if it’s not linked to what you are sorry for.

When children are specific with their apology, they are actually thinking about what they have done and whether it was a good choice.

So, for example, “I’m sorry for hitting Billy with my pencil case.”

But what about adults? Should we apologise to our children when we get it wrong?

It’s funny how hard it can be to say sorry when you’re the parent.

As adults, we often feel that our children should do as they’re told – without question. And we really don’t like to admit when we’re wrong. We might feel that backing down and compromising will send the wrong message to our children – it might reduce our authority, or let them feel that “they have got away with it”.

However, I believe we should ALWAYS be prepared to apologise for our behaviour. And we should say sorry specifically for something we have said or done, in exactly the same way our children should.

We know that children learn from their experiences and from the people around them.  So, if what they see around them in their world are good role models who are saying sorry and admitting when they are wrong, then that is the behaviour that they will emulate.

I’m a parent – we’re only human!  We have bad days when we are less tolerant than usual or even a tad grumpy!  However, if we can hold our hands up and say sorry to our children, then they can learn from us.

Your apology might sound a bit like this: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound grumpy, I’m not feeling well today and I’m having a bad day. I shouldn’t have reacted that way towards you.  I’m sorry.”

When we say sorry for our behaviour and can admit that we are wrong, children learn empathy, it builds a bond of trust and respect within the relationship and it also helps to de-escalate the situation.  When we apologise, our children see this as us being fair and that we are trying to understand and listen to them.

Children also learn that when they have moments where their emotions are ‘out of control,’ that it is normal and, in fact, adults experience similar issues and have learnt how to manage their emotions. They see that they can do the same.

As an adult, saying sorry benefits everyone.  It helps to develop children’s social development and enhances their ability to self-regulate their behaviour.  It demonstrates the need to consider other people’s feelings.

So, next time you find yourself in conflict with your child, think, “Am I in the wrong?”,

And remember the power of saying sorry…


Anne GoldsmithAnne Goldsmith is a Positive Behaviour Consultant & Parenting Coach. She runs Behaviour First Consultancy, offering 1 to 1 coaching for children aged 3 – 16 and their parents in private and school settings. “Behaviour first – learning, achievement and success follows.” For more information on this topic, visit behaviourfirstconsultancy to watch Anne’s video on ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’.

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