It's common to see parents forcing their children to
Sometimes it results in the child saying sorry, sometimes it
results in more conflict because the child refuses.
In the past I've asked my kids to do this, too, but honestly,
I've never felt very good about it.
Without real understanding, that apology means nothing. They are
just words to pacify, words that create social comfort.
Was anything really learned? Does the child really feel
sorry or are they just learning to use words to get out of an
It's kind of like asking them to lie. If they don't
feel sorry, why do we force them to say it? And then even
worse, punish them if they refuse to say it?
Instead of focusing on the "sorry," can we focus on the feeling?
What feeling brought on this behavior; what was felt right before
you hit, yelled, or made that choice?
If children can identify their feelings, then they better
understand themselves. And the better they understand their
feelings, the more self aware they will be.
And self awareness leads to making better choices.
Maybe the next time they feel "that feeling" (could be
anything…anger, embarrassment, frustration) they will instead try a
deep breath, walking away or ask for help.
Maybe they will think before they speak, maybe they will use
words instead of hitting.
And maybe, and most important, they will learn how to really
listen and understand another person.
When one child does something to hurt another (emotionally or
physically), are both parties asked what happened? Do they both get
an opportunity to explain their side?
Maybe it's not so cut and dry who is right and who is wrong.
There may have been many issues that lead up to the issue at
By asking questions we learn (and they learn) how one thing
leads to another, how seemingly little things can lead to big
A poor choice may have been made, but poor choices are rarely
made in isolation.
Maybe after it's all said and done only one child gets a
consequence, but at least that child had the opportunity to
There was respect instead of shame. There was validation instead
Children will integrate the learning if they are heard first.
Children understand how to empathize when they experience empathy
Instead of casting blame and creating a villain and a victim,
can we see all sides of the story?
Then maybe, with this understanding, an apology will be real.
One or both parties will see the big picture, understand their role
in the situation, and then they can practice saying, "I'm
This process may take longer than forcing an apology. It may
take a little bit more energy, too.
But in the long run, what are you trying to teach?
How to make a mistake, speak a few words, and then walk away
with no new understanding and no real remorse? I think our society
has seen enough of this behavior.
Or, when these inevitable moments occur, can we focus on helping
our children understand themselves and each other.
These are the true steps toward peace.
Cathy talked with WGN's Bill
forcing apologies last Saturday...
click here to hear the interview.
Cathy and her husband Todd will talk about forcing apologies
on Zen Parenting
Radio today (October 25th) at 4:30 CST.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
What to do with your weekend, delivered every Thursday.
Great deals and chances to win prizes, delivered every Monday.
Exclusive offers from our partners,usually delivered twice a week.
Resources for parents of children with special needs,delivered the second Tuesday each month.