How to Get Children to Apologize Properly

When transferring from foster care agencies in Michigan to a new home, there are a lot of new norms and situations that a child has to go through. One may have to adjust to an environment without a lot of rules to one that is more regimented, and in some cases, this can be a difficult transition, especially for younger children.


Perhaps one situation that encapsulates this is the value of an apology. In general, we teach our children from a young age that if they hurt someone or make a mistake, an apology is the right thing to offer. But what happens in those situations when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, or if it’s used as carte blanche rather than as a true apology. Why is this so important?


For one thing, foster care in Michigan is just the start. Smaller issues with apologies can potentially translate to bigger problems down the line. The good news is that parents have a lot of tools at their disposal to not only help their children understand what an apology actually should be, but also how they can help develop key areas like problem-solving and understanding accountability.


The first example of this is looking out for children trying to use an apology with some sort of qualifier. The whole point of apologizing is to try and take responsibility, but a lot of the time, this ends up being used as a chance to try and shift the blame. In general, the idea of “I’m sorry, but…” is something that you want to avoid. As a parent, if you get one of these, then you’re better off not accepting the apology. Instead, condition them to include with their apology, an example of something they can do to resolve the issue. For example, saying, “I’m sorry, and here’s what I will do to fix it,” is a lot better of a way to go.


Another thing you may want to do is work making amends into the apology. For example, let’s say that a child gets in trouble at school for something that they said. Along with their verbalized apology, you may want to have them write an apology. If something is damaged by an older child, maybe have them do some work to pay off part of the damages. The key here is to keep with the idea that everything has some sort of consequences.


As a final note, especially with younger children, it’s okay if it takes a little time for this to get through. Make sure that you’re not putting undue stress on yourself to fit the situation.




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