What About Forgiveness?


Should I make my kids say “sorry”?


The thing is, apologizing doesn’t make it all okay and doesn’t fix the problem.
“I’m sorry” aren’t magic words and saying them doesn’t undo what was done.
Not only do forced apologies teach children to lie (what if they aren’t sorry?), but
they take away from the real issue – seeking and giving forgiveness. When I do something I regret, I will apologize, and then ask the person (even my children!) if they will please forgive me. Teaching children that they have the power to forgive is much more important than teaching the untrue idea that “I’m sorry” makes everything okay.

Often, when the situation is fresh and heated, the person who wronged someone isn’t
ready to apologize and seek forgiveness, and the person who was wronged isn’t ready to forgive. There doesn’t need to be anything immediate about reconciliation. But reconciliation will not fully occur until both parties have taken responsibility for healing the rift in their relationship. This reality is what I teach my children. I teach them how to say, “I’m sorry.” I teach them that saying that helps people feel better. I give them opportunities and encouragement to apologize. But I try to keep my focus on the big picture, which is reconciliation – and that cannot be forced.

I would just encourage you to make sure you’re talking with them about “sorry
means you stop,” and that truly being sorry means you don’t continue or repeat
the behavior.

Thoughts from Kym:

In most situations, I try to guide my son to empathize with the other person –
“How do you think Bobby felt when you took his car without asking?” I also
quietly point out other situations around us when appropriate. If he witnesses
other children in conflict, he can learn from that, too. “What could Bailey be
feeling right now?” or “How do you think you might feel if you were Bailey?”

When most typical “What can you say?” or “Say you’re sorry” situations arise, I
will sometimes ask my son something like, “How can you resolve this situation?” or
ask, “Would you like my help with this situation?” If he does, then I might
vocalize, “I can see that you feel really angry about that car, Bobby. I’d feel
angry too. I’m sorry that happened.” My son seems to learn much more about
being sensitive and thoughtful this way than if I confused him by asking him to
make a statement that are not in accord with what he truly feels.

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