Expert Parent Advice

Teaching Kids to Apologize

How many times have our kids given the obligatory “I’m sorry” when we know good and well they didn’t really mean it?

If that happens in your house – you’re not alone.  Today we’re talking about how to teach your kids to apologize in a way that is meaningful and helps them learn important lessons for the future.

I’m Amy McCready, Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and I’m proud to partner with Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice Series.

You know the drill…your child does something unsavory to a sibling or friend and you require that an apology be issued right now!  Then, your child grudgingly complies with a half-hearted “I’m sorry” so he can “check it off the list” and get on with his business.

Empathy is something that must be taught.  Teaching kids how to take responsibility for their actions and give sincere and meaningful apologies requires these principles.

1. Wait until everyone is calm before having a discussion about apologies! Even though you may feel pressure from other adults nearby to “do something”, requiring your child to apologize when he’s upset or the “injured party” is upset is futile.  Instead, calmly remove your child from the environment so he can calm down and you can deal with the situation in helpful way.

2. Don’t “shame” or punish the child for his mistake. That will only make your child feel embarrassed or humiliated, and it takes the focus off of learning for the future.  

Let her know that we all make mistakes, but now she has an opportunity to learn from the mistake and make it right with the other person.

3. Help your child process what he was feeling. For example, “What/how were you feeling before you hit Jenny?” This teaches him to take responsibility for his feelings. If the child is too young to identify the feeling, you can help “label” it by saying, “It looked like you were really angry.”  This reinforces that feelings are okay, however, the action that followed was not.

4. Next, connect the dots by tying the way your child felt to her behavior to how it made the other person feel.  For example, “When you felt angry and hit Jenny, how do you think that made her feel?”  It helps her learn that her actions affect other people.  By connecting the dots in this way, you are fostering emotional intelligence by helping your child learn that feelings are okay, however some actions are not okay and those actions impact other people.

Now, for the last and most important step in this process, click on over to the interactive that goes along with this video.

By following the four strategies I just discussed and closing the loop with step five explained in the interactive, your child will learn to take responsibility for her actions and will develop empathy for others. 

For ongoing solutions to your parenting challenges, visit us often at for the Expert Parenting Advice series.  I’m Amy McCready for Kids ‘R’ Kids and I’ll see you next time.