Teach proper apologies.
Take a step back.
Kids may resist saying “sorry” because they think a mistake wasn’t their fault. They need to know that even when they were wrong, they’re not “bad” and are still loved. If your child is arguing with a friend and pushes him, first help him calm down. Insisting he say “sorry” when he’s upset will only make it harder for him to know how his behavior affects others. As he learns empathy, he’ll understand the pain his actions can cause, develop remorse, and be better able to handle conflicts later.
If your child’s anger is directed at you, responding with “We don’t talk that way! Apologize!” will only escalate the situation and make him feel bad about being scolded rather than about being rude to you. Instead, say, “That hurts my feelings. I love you. Let’s take a break and come back later.”
Review what happened.
Once she calms down, ask, “How would you feel if that happened to you?” You can also help her recall when she felt the same way: “Remember how sad you were when Stella yelled at you? That might be how Chloe feels.” Then brainstorm actions that would work better next time.
Lead by example.
Your child is watching what you do. If you snapped at him when he interrupted your conversation, you might say, “I’m sorry I didn’t respond in a nicer way. Next time, I’ll take a deep breath to calm down.” As he sees this process in action, he will internalize the words and their meaning.
Explore other ways to say “sorry.”
If your child calls her friend a mean name, come up with ways to apologize. She might draw her a picture or offer a hug. This helps her learn to be responsible for correcting mistakes. If she refuses to apologize, you might choose to avoid the power struggle; another chance will come along. But if she does say “sorry,” praise her: “You should feel proud for making your friend happy!” Sources: Ericka Anderson, a licensed professional counselor at The Healing Grove, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Jennifer Kirk, Psy.d., a psychologist at Kirk Neurobehavioral Health, in Louisville, Colorado.