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10 Ways to Tell a Child You are Sorry

January 24, 2012

Communication and trust are the hallmarks of a strong relationship; and, with all due respect to Erich Segal, that means knowing when to say you’re sorry. Sometimes knowing how to say it is even more difficult, especially when it comes to our children. Let’s take a look at some alternatives for when you need to mend fences with your child. Here are ten ways to tell a child you are sorry:

  1. Listen. – We can’t really comprehend the extent to which we may have upset someone, unless we let them express that hurt. This is often the first step toward knowing how to apologize.
  2. Don’t Mince Words. - Admit fully what you are apologizing for, and skip the excuses. The bottom line is trust, and your child needs to know that you can be relied upon, even when it comes to admitting when you’re wrong.
  3. Write a Letter. – There are occasions when expressing your remorse in writing is the best approach. It allows you to fully verbalize your apology, while also giving your child time to reflect without the obligation to accept an apology, before they are emotionally prepared to do so.
  4. Make Amends.  – It’s important that a child understands that the phrase “I’m sorry” is not an eraser that magically wipes out fault and accountability. So an apology should always include corrective action of some kind.
  5. Ask How To Fix It. – Discuss with your child how to make those amends. When you have caused someone hurt, the lesson here is that how you make things right should be determined by the party who has been wronged.
  6. Reinforce Your Love. – Let them know that anything you may have done or said out of anger or frustration in no way changes your feelings toward them.
  7. Build Trust. – When faced with similar circumstances in the future, show your child that you are committed to acting differently. Children see the contrasts we sometimes display between our words and our deeds.
  8. Show Trust. – Conversely, if you find yourself needing to apologize for a lack of trust in them, demonstrate a sincere willingness to trust your children by granting them greater freedoms or responsibilities.
  9. Have a Plan. – Create an environment of mutual respect and personal responsibility toward one another in your home. Discuss how to deal with grievances between members, and stick to the agreement.
  10. Make it Public. – When apologizing for something that occurred in the presence of others, it’s a good idea to say you’re sorry with them present as well.

5 Responses to 10 Ways to Tell a Child You are Sorry

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Jenna says:

I think it’s easy for parents to cop out of apologizing to their kids because they’re the parent, but if you can be the bigger person and admit when you’re wrong then you’re setting the best example possible for your kids.

Brit says:

it definitely takes a lot to tell your kids you’re sorry. i think we often want our kids to see us an infallible. but, we’re human too, and showing them it’s ok to admit fault will only help them grow into well-rounded individuals.

Anne P. says:

I’m 50/50 on #10. I don’t think you should go out of your way to wait for an apology until all parties are present again if you’ve done something wrong – you can apologize and admit fault to your child and then later follow up with the others and say you were wrong vs. getting everyone together for a public apology.

Eric says:

Ehhhh the writing a letter kind of seems like a way to make apologizing easier. I think it takes character to be able to verbally apologize to someone – your kids included.

Ella D. says:

I agree with Eric on that one. I think it’s much harder to apologize in person than a written apology and your child doesn’t have to accept the apology immediately either way.