Forcing kids to apologize

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Preschoolers, Teens, Development/Milestones: Babies, In The News

A new post on Slate has my mind a'swirling. Should we force our kids to apologize? The author of the article, Emily Bazelon, seems to think so. Her husband disagrees.

He contends that apologizing is useless if the apology doesn't come from the heart of the person saying it--if they don't really mean it the apology is not worth anything to him. Emily, on the other end of the spectrum, feels that if the kid says it enough the point will eventually sink in, and one day those apologies will be for real.

Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline, changed the Slate opinionist's, ehr, opinion on forcing children to apologize. Jane believes that forcing kids to apologize when they don't mean it is essentially asking them to lie. It also basically just placates the adult (the parent) which doesn't really solve the problem either.

Instead, suggests Nelson, let the apology be the kid's idea. Ask questions about why an event occurred, how it made everyone feel and what might be done to correct the situation. That seems like a good plan, in theory anyway. My son isn't old enough to do anything he might have to apologize for. I mean, he can barely say Mama, let alone tell me he feels bad for throwing his wooby at the doggie!

In reality, though, in the heat of the moment, or when other kids and their parents are involved, it might be difficult to have a heart to heart and get the response you want from your child. I don't know--I'm not in that situation so I can't say, but it seems like a possibly tall order.

A friend of Emily's points out that it's important for parents to set the tone by apologizing themselves whenever they feel they've done something wrong. I think that's a great way to teach--by example. Maybe not such a tall order after all.

So what do you think? Do you make your kids apologize--to each other, to other kids, to you? And what effect does it have? What successes can you share, and what do you think you'd do differently? Is Jane Nelsen full of it or does she have some real insight? Or, a little of both? :)

Pic by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino23.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.