Why you shouldn’t force your child to say sorry

Say sorry! Or not. Dr Justin Coulson outlines why it isn’t worth forcing children to utter apologies that are neither meaningful or beneficial.

Sorry isn’t always the kindest word

say_sorry_pic1“Go and say sorry to your brother.” Most of us have demanded our child make an apology at one time or another. Perhaps it was to a sibling or friend, or perhaps it was to us.

The apology our child provides is usually whispered, a barely audible muttering of “sorry” that is neither meaningful nor worthwhile. Alternatively, it becomes a farce. The word “sorry” is spat with vitriol and spite towards the aggrieved sibling (or you if your child is feeling particularly petulant). I recall being a teenage boy and calling my sister “stupid”. My mother decided that this was unacceptable and demanded that I apologise. Immediately I looked toward my sister and said,

“Sure. I’m sorry you’re stupid.”

I was then forced to apologise for my apology!

The purpose of an apology is to right a wrong, correct an injustice. At a deeper level, we apologise to express remorse and regret, with a view to repair a relationship.

Forcing a child to apologise

say_sorry_pic2When we force our children to apologise their statements of ‘regret’ neither address the wrong on any meaningful level, nor do they express any genuine desire to obtain forgiveness for an unkind word or act. To the contrary, forced apologies seem to be more likely to promote resentment towards the aggrieved sibling, to undermine the relationship, and to foster a feeling that: “The only thing I’m sorry for is that I got caught.”

True, kids need to learn to apologise if they behave unkindly towards others (as do adults). But they need to learn to apologise the right way. And meaningless apologies mumbled through indignantly clenched teeth are hardly representative of contrition. Nor do they teach children much other than “the big person can make me do stuff I don’t want to do.”

How do we teach our children to apologise and mean it?

  • First, we should spend time with them (following the ‘drama’) helping them to see the perspective of the person they’ve upset or offended.
  • Second, once they have some insight into the problems they’ve created we can ask them what they think would be appropriate action.
  • Third, we can then guide them through appropriate ways to apologise.

Source : http://www.kidspot.com.au/why-you-shouldnt-force-your-child-to-say-sorry/
Author :  Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children.