Often times when someone hurts or offends us, we want an immediate apology. An apology is something that can’t be rushed or forced. How useful is an apology if there really is no admission or understanding by the other person of how you’ve been hurt? The consequence of a rushed apology is that it may be insincere, with no real understanding or remorse for the hurtful act.
I have two daughters and they are 2 ½ years apart. Since they were very young, they’ve been sharing a room, so it was very important to me that they learn how to work out their own problems. They enjoy sharing a room and even now that they are older, continue to do so. They are respectful of each other, giving space to the other when needed. The following situation happened when the oldest daughter was 11 and the younger one was 8 ½.
One school morning, my oldest daughter, who typically needs a lot of time to get ready in the morning, needed some extra wake up time in her bed since she was so tired after having worked late on her homework the night before. I allowed it and was confident that she would hurry on the other end to be sure we got to school on time because we had made an agreement about it. My younger daughter, who can get ready very quickly, was still in her bed. I am not usually concerned about the younger one being ready on time because it’s not usually an issue.
On this particular school morning, I was in the kitchen when my younger daughter came to inform me that her sister said she had to get out of bed “NOW,” using a demanding tone and was bossing her around.
So what did I do? I called the older one into the kitchen immediately and asked her what her intention was telling her sister that she had to get out of bed. Now this oldest daughter is not a morning person, so she was even crankier having been told to get out of bed sooner than initially agreed. She was not in the mental state to talk about it, no less apologize. But the younger daughter was waiting for an apology and that’s when I told her, “You can’t rush an apology.”
My Apology Policy:
When someone owes another person an apology it must include the following things in a sincere and thoughtful manner.
- Look into the person’s eyes.
- Use a complete sentence starting with “I am sorry for…” rather than just a quick, “I’m sorry.”
- The other person needs to say something like, “I really don’t like it when…” or “It hurts my feelings when…” or “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t…”
- The apologizer then needs to say something along the lines of “I understand,” or “I will try not to do that again,” or “I’ll work on that.” It’s important that the “wronged” person feels heard.
- The second person needs to verbally say that they accept the person’s apology and appreciate the effort the other person made to apologize.
- Lastly, some type of touch needs to happen- a hug, handshake, high five. Some sort of physical interaction will help to “break the ice” so they can move on.
Apologizing Is a Skill
How does the story end? After having showered, eaten and dressed, the oldest daughter was now at a place that she could talk to her sister. They worked it out themselves, and that is what I was hoping for. The oldest daughter took a much-needed “PAUSE,”something that all of us need to remember to do more often in order to create the space needed to respond appropriately.
In order for your children to master the skill of apologizing, it needs to be modeled, practiced and consistent. At first you’ll need to walk them through the steps and if needed, give them the vocabulary to use. It’s okay to guide them through what to say and what to do. They will be practicing with you and will, in time, become masters at admitting their mistakes, learning from them and apologizing.
I know this works because I’ve seen it in my own daughters as well as with students at school. One of my favorite parenting moments was when I heard my daughters having a disagreement in the other room and I went over to see what was going on and to see if I could help. Instead I was greeted by the younger daughter, saying, “Mom, we’ve got it covered.”
Want to learn how to create more PEACE in your home? Join me for my next Redirecting Children's Behavior course starting January 15.