Kids interact with people day in and day out. They cross paths with family, friends, and classmates. Because we are all human, eventually, they need to learn to give a genuine apology. By accident or by design, our daughters hurt and upset others. It is our job as mothers to give them the life skill of learning to sincerely apologize.
Now, this is not necessarily an easy task. Even adults have trouble admitting to wrongdoing and expressing remorse for their actions. If adults struggle, then children and young adults, who are still developing emotionally and mentally, will naturally have some difficulty as well. Whether it’s a humility issue, a fear of weakness, or just not seeing the need, our kids aren’t always going to apologize when they should.
Sometimes it’s a matter of instructing them how to properly apologize, and other times it’s walking through why we say sorry. Taking ownership of our actions is a painful but necessary step to growing up, one that we as flawed, beautifully messy people don’t learn naturally. Here are some steps that you as a mom can take to help your daughter develop the essential skill of apologizing.
Help Them Recognize the Need
Developing empathy for other people is a huge part of becoming a compassionate, mature human being. Being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes and see why your actions might cause them pain can help you understand the need to apologize. When your daughter doesn’t feel that it’s necessary, talk to her about why saying “I’m sorry” is important and how her actions affect others.
Apologies are more than just words. They show that “I see that I hurt you and I respect that you as a person have feelings. I will try to do better in the future.” Saying sorry shows that other people matter.
Once the why of an apology is established, help your daughter see the need for one in her particular situation. It may sound a bit cliche, but ask her to truly think how she would feel if she were treated that way. If necessary, walk her through the situation step by step, asking her to examine how she feels in response to every action. Help her to recognize the effect her actions have and what empathy for those around her truly looks like.
Give Them a Framework
Sometimes the issue isn’t a lack of desire but a lack of understanding of how to apologize. Giving kids a basic apology framework will give them more confidence when handling a situation that requires one. So what does an apology look like? It should:
- Acknowledge wrongdoing: Naming the offense makes the other person feel seen and makes it clear that the offender understands what went wrong.
- Express remorse: This is where the “I’m sorry I…” comes into play.
- Resolve to make things right: If something is damaged and needs to be replaced, can you work together on a solution? Is there a behavior that needs to be addressed and changed?
- Understand that you can’t control the response: The person hurt may not always accept an apology right away or at all.
Once you have built the framework for your daughter, show her how it applies to a real apology. She may not be amazing at it right away, but practice makes progress. She will get better with time.
Be the Example
The most crucial part of teaching kids how to apologize is doing it ourselves. Your daughter learns far more from your actions than she ever will from your words. Apologizing to your kids when you mess up is the greatest teaching tool you will ever wield. Even when you are at odds, she witnesses your actions. You are the most significant teacher she will ever have because no one else will love her as you do.
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