Teaching Kids to Apologize: A Step-by-Step Guide

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Five steps to help kids learn the lost art of saying “I’m sorry.” The steps work for adults, too!

Have you noticed how apologizing has become almost a lost art these days? A great number of adults – not kids – seem to have forgotten how to say that glorious two-word phrase, “I’m sorry!” And if the offender (whether it be government officials to movie stars to plagiarizing authors to “poor-sport” athletes to our own friends) does give an apology, notice how it often sounds insincere?

Sorry!, the Perfect Book by Trudy Ludwig

How are kids going to learn this great skill unless we model it ourselves? That’s why I adore Trudy Ludwig’s book, “Sorry!” (Tricycle Press – available on amazon or in your local bookstore). It’s plain wonderful. I have to admit I’m a big fan of Trudy’s books (her other books “My Secret Bully” and “Just Kidding” are fabulous also).

Rarely do children’s books model for young readers personal accountability and responsibility the way Sorry! does.

Sorry-TrudyLudwigTrudy’s thoughtful, one-of-a-kind story on the power of apology shows how a child can take ownership of a hurtful behavior and then right his or her wrong. The story also offers invaluable life lessons on empathy and compassion to children (and adults) alike.

Sorry! also helps kids see from the other side — how their actions were hurtful and why they should make amends. And that’s exactly what is missing too often. Kids seem to be on “auto-pilot” when they apologize. “I’m sorry” is said too quickly with no meaning behind those words.

Pick up a copy! It’s one of those perfect books you want to keep on your shelf for the perfect moment.

Five Steps to Giving a Sincere Apology

As you read Trudy’s book and discuss the reasons why it’s important to make amends, teach your kids the simple five steps for apologizing. The skill of apologizing (along with 25 other critical friendship skills) is from my book, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them. Many teachers are turning the steps into a chart and posting it in their classroom.

You’ll have to model these steps with your children until they finally understand the parts of a sincere apology.

Keep in mind that the easiest way for kids to learn how to apologize is by copying our own example. So the next time (and the next….and the next….) you make a mistake, admit it to your kids. Just make sure you add two powerful words, “I’m sorry!”

Essential to our children’s moral development is realizing that personal actions do impact others. If you do something that causes another person pain, you need to make amends. The phrases to say to your child as you teach how to apologize are in quotations. Of course, put in your own words and values in your discussion, but remember that the key is that kids need to know there must be sincerity in their words. You’ll also need to take your child’s age and maturity into consideration as you begin the process of teaching the skill. As children’s moral maturity and empathy develops, so will the meaning of their words.

Step 1. Think about what you did wrong.

Get specific. “Did you say something that hurt your friend’s feelings? Did you say something behind her back? What exactly are you sorry for?”

Step 2. Find the best time and place to apologize.

“If you really, really can’t face your friend, you could write a letter or call him on the phone . But find a time when you won’t be interrupted and you can focus on telling the person your concerns.” Usually it’s best to keep the apology private so as not to embarrass your child. But that, of course, depends upon the circumstance.

Step 3. Say what you’re sorry for.

“Be brief, sincere, and honest. Say exactly what you did that you’re sorry for “I…..[fill in what you did]…and then add ‘I’m sorry’. You might want to briefly describe what happened. Your friend may see it differently, so it’s a good idea to share your view of the problem.”

4. Tell how you are going to make things better.

“So what are you going to do about your actions? Tell your friend! Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t necessarily fix things. Let your friend know what you plan to do to make things better.”

The key here is to help your child think about how the other person feels – disappointed, upset, mad, sad. Discuss the thoughts and feelings that can evolve. Sincere apologies help the injured or hurt child know that the child cares and wants to make things better – not an easy task, especially for a young child. As Ludwig points out: “Making a sincere apology is hard work. It requires personal responsibility and remorse for the wrongdoing, along with a determined effort to make up for the hurt one has caused others.” Stress that apologizing is hard work. It can be embarrassing – after all, the child is admitting he was wrong or even has a weakness! “It actually takes courage and strength to honestly admit the error of our ways,” Ludwig points out.

5. Give your friendship time to heal.

“Remember, you can’t make anybody do anything she doesn’t want to do. And that means you can’t make your friend accept your apology. All you can do is admit you’re wrong and try to make amends.”

Then practice, practice, practice at home so your child can use the skill in the real world.

Showing children a skill is always more powerful than telling them …so model it. Then remember to admit when you’re wrong and say a sincere, “I’m sorry!” to your kids.

When kids recognize there are consequences to their actions which can be helpful or hurtful it helps them take a big leap forward in becoming more thoughtful, compassionate and responsible. Our job as parents is to help stretch our children’s moral development. Stopping and helping our children learn and practice the skills of apologizing is an important part of boosting their character.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

But Mom, what if it’s more than a sprain?

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:45 pm

Among the most common injuries to young people is a sprain to the ankle joint, which happens when the ligaments stabilizing the joint are stretched too far. A sprained ankle may result in swelling, bruising or tenderness over the affected ligament — which causes pain and limits the function of the joint. The immediate treatment for an ankle injury is to rest it, elevate it and apply ice to it for 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a day. You can also give anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen to your child, and put a wrap or brace on the ankle to reduce swelling and speed up recovery.

These measures usually allow the sprain to heal on its own, but if after a few days, the pain is uncontrollable or your child still has difficulty putting weight on her foot, have her examined by a doctor. A fracture of the bones in the ankle generally causes an immediate throbbing pain and an inability to put pressure on the foot — along with bruising, swelling or tenderness. It can also cause deformity of the foot. If there is severe persistent pain, a misshapen appearance to the joint or a total inability to bear weight on the foot, take your child straight to the doctor or the emergency room.

**Editor’s Note:  COVID-19 is causing some parents to delay getting medical treatment for themselves or their children out of fear of contracting the virus.  When in doubt, call your child’s pediatrician. Let them be your guide in these challenging times

If We Want Ethical Kids, They Need to Learn “Honor” From Us

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:46 pm

We all wish to grow healthy, happy relationships with our children. We interact, play and talk with our children to enjoy one another and feel connected. In those moments when we are in conflict with our kids at home, we wonder “What can I do to enhance my relationships with my children?”

One way to improve our relationships is to show that we honor one another.

In its simplest terms, honor is the degree of value, worth and importance you place on a relationship. It is granting another person a position of value in your life.

You likely model honor in your own home naturally. You are caring, loving and trustworthy. If you are ready to delve deeper, here are some steps to spring you forward in the depth and experience of teaching honor in your own home.

Honor begins at home here’s why:

  • You are your kid’s finest role model. If you respect your children in your words and behaviors they learn to do the same with others.
  • Honor is about allegiance, when you teach your children to honor their relationships they become friends who stand up for one another, support one another and are true to each other.
  • Honoring honesty, hard work and patience builds children who value hard work and completing tasks to their rightful end.

Reflect for a moment: Do you honor your relationships? Is it important to you that people honor and give value to what you say and feel? How do you show your kids that you honor them?

Here are some questions to ponder. You might even wish to write them in a journal and note what you do, when and why? This process will bring honor front of mind, help you monitor your tone and change your behavior as needed.

  • Do I talk with my children eye to eye?
  • Do I share their exuberance when they show me their schoolwork?
  • Do I make their lunches based on what’s quick or do I buy food that will keep them healthy, and that they in turn like?
  • Do I take phone calls in my car when I am with my kids?
  • Do we make an effort to sit down to family breakfast and dinner?
  • Do I attend my children’s activities and pay attention to them, or do I take calls on my cell phone while my children are doing their best to show me their achievements? **Editor’s note:  although Covid-19 has significantly curtailed our children’s ability to participate in a number of activities, the question is still worth considering: when you are with your child, are you “with them”?
  • Do I involve my children in the tasks of everyday life such as cleaning, cooking and caring for our home? Or do I tell them “I’ll do it” because that is easier than working through the process with them or dealing with pending messes?
  • Do I take the time to genuinely learn about my child’s interests?
  • Do I schedule my work hours when the kids are doing their schoolwork (irrespective of location), or do I work at home all hours of the night when they are not engaged in schoolwork and need time with me?
  • Do I focus on what my children do right rather than what my children do wrong?

No one is perfect, but when we strive to be mindful about how we honor our family, it builds trust, respect and love.

In relationships where we honor one another, listen to our children’s unique voices and really hear what they need, we improve how we communicate, how we express our love and how we get along across a lifetime.

If you are ready to take steps today try this:

  1. Be consistent with your children.
  2. Be attuned to their individual needs.
  3. Respond to your kids by getting off the couch, computer or phone and going to them. Proximity matters when you are communicating with your children.
  4. Take your child’s concerns seriously. This means acknowledging their feelings. Do not mock or tease your children. Sarcasm is painful and it cuts deeply.
  5. Match your child’s exuberance and excitement by sharing whole-heartedly in their joy.
  6. Give your children your undivided attention in the moments they need you.

If we wish to raise ethical kids in this complicated world, we need to begin with the lessons we teach at home. Being present, modeling respect and showing the meaning of honor is a solid start at any age.

Making Play Dough – A Family First Aid Fiasco

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:46 pm

Reading the post, First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know, from Kristin Bailey Murphy reminded me of one of our own first aid experiences. Kids may be accident magnets…but it doesn’t help when Mom and Dad have a “dumb parent moment”!

Our Emergency

This first aid fiasco was rooted in “mommy-guilt”. When my son was two years old I started taking him to crafty enrichment classes at our local children’s museum every Saturday. I was working a lot during that period and this was a chance to spend time together while also feeling like I was doing something for his development.

It was in these classes that I learned the recipe for homemade play dough. Wow…not only could we share these classes together….but I could give my young son safe, edible (what doesn’t a two-year old eat?) play dough THAT I MADE MYSELF! But, seriously, the stuff is really easy and fun to make – and even at age two Elliott could help in making play dough, since you have to knead the dough while it cools.

No, the issue came from me trying to add that little something extra – a little more mommy-love. The museum jazzed up their dough with glitter and some peppermint oil for fragrance. So I went out and bought a few different essential oils – for variety. On the particular day in question, with Elliott standing on a chair at the kitchen counter helping me as I started making play dough, I decided to try cinnamon oil. Only the lid was really tight. My husband was nearby so I asked him to open the bottle (one of several great husband roles!) – which he promptly did. But I didn’t notice since I was occupied by congealing play dough in a pot on the stove. And he didn’t realize that I didn’t notice. Communication breakdown! But our 2-year old noticed…and promptly poured concentrated food-grade cinnamon oil all over himself. Essential oils, like cinnamon oil, can be toxic to the skin in high concentrations and can result in itching, burning, redness and inflammation. Suddenly we had a screaming child in the kitchen – and had to deal with a poison control situation!

What To Do (and Not To Do!)

We knew we had to get the oil off his skin quickly – and keep him from spreading it to other areas like his face, since he had it on his hands as well. My husband stripped off his clothes immediately and held his arms down while rushing him to the bathroom. In the meantime I was calling our local Poison Control Center.

Since he was so young our first reaction was to put him in the bath, but as soon as the water started to pool around him we realized our mistake. This wouldn’t wash away the oil. It might just get it on more of his body. And that’s just what the Poison Control experts said. They recommended flushing water over the affected area for a full 20 minutes, especially since he had a definite red rash where his skin had come in contact with the oil. To best accomplish this and to soothe Elliott, my husband stripped down and got into the shower as well. That way he could be sure of the water temperature and that the right skin areas were in the water flow. Thankfully the shower had an almost immediate effect. The crying stopped very quickly – and after the full 20 minutes there were no lasting marks or redness. But for several years our son did have an aversion to “cimmomon”!

How To Be (Better) Prepared

Obviously keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and be careful when using them in the presence of kids. Something we became acutely aware of! As Kristin pointed out in her post, also be sure to have the number of your local Poison Control prominently displayed. But if you need to find it quickly – like we did – just look on the first page of your white or yellow pages.

And here is the infamous play dough recipe. Despite this incident we’ve had many years of safe fun and success with it.

Homemade Play Dough

1 Cup Flour

1 Cup Water

1 Tbs Vegetable Oil

½ Cup Salt

1 Tsp Cream of Tartar

A few drops of Food Coloring or Essential Oil (e.g. Peppermint Oil)  {optional}

Glitter  {optional}

Cook over medium heat until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and becomes play dough in consistency (add glitter part way through this process, before the dough becomes too thick). Remove from pan and knead until cool. Keeps 3 months unrefrigerated in a sealed zip-closure bag.