Thoughts from Sandy:
I don’t demand apologies, but I do teach them from the time they are little what
“sorry” means. In their understanding, it is “I wish I hadn’t done that,” or “I’m sorry
I made you feel sad and hurt you.”
As they get older and understand more, after we talk, I say, “Would you like to make things right with your brother, me, Daddy, whoever…” because they usually feel better when they say sorry or give a hug. I don’t demand it though; what is the point of that? If they don’t feel sorry, they shouldn’t say they do.
If I have a child who is not ready to make things right, I try to assess why. Sometimes it is because they were wronged, too, and they are holding onto their own anger. Sometimes there are other reasons. I really try to talk with them, give them cuddle time, quiet time alone to read/look at books, until they are ready to make things right. I don’t want them lying and saying their sorry when they aren’t, but I do want them to learn from the earliest age possible what it means to keep “short accounts” with others. And how to express anger appropriately and let go of it – “Be angry and sin not.” I want them to be willing to acknowledge what it is that they did wrong, and be able to empathize with the
one they hurt. I want them to know how to settle conflict Biblically.
This is a huge task to teach and involves direct teaching and modeling. So, even though I
don’t turn it into a power struggle and demand an apology at any time, I provide
love, understanding, support and guidance so they want to make things right.
Does that make sense? I think this skill is critically important to develop in the
early years. My 6 1/2- year-old will do this completely on his own now.
Sometimes he’ll want to talk to me before he makes things right, but I can’t
remember the last time I had to ask him if he was ready.
Also, sometimes as we talk through the process, I help my children figure out if they need to make restitution, too, or another gesture of friendship. I think it is really neat to watch, as I was never taught these things.