"Say you're SORRY!"

 

How many times have you overheard a parent snarl this?

The tone is angry, the underlying message is "Say you're sorry or ELSE" and it's really not about the child expressing regret anymore. It's about the parent feeling out of control or embarrassed or angry about the situation.

Even if she says sorry, is she, in that moment? I'm guessing not. I'd be scared if my parent was mad at me.

What are we teaching when we force an apology? To ignore feelings, to lie about reality, to decide someone else knows more than our kids about their emotions.

But what else can we do? How do kids develop empathy without forcing the "I'm sorry?"

Try this--once they're calmed down, ask both kids how they're feeling and what would make them feel better about what just happened. With my kids, sometimes that means a promise to not hurt each other or a silly high five or a video of their goofy faces together or drawing a comic together or even a traditional apology.

I'm generally amazed at the ideas they have for what will repair their relationships. The kids get to practice checking in with each other and deciding what would feel good. They're negotiating, trading ideas, solving their own problems using their words and skills.