“Say Sorry!” How to help our children fix mistakes, repair relationships and mean it when they say sorry.
We’ve all said this. We’ve all said it because we are amazing parents that want our children to be empathetic and caring people who repair damages to relationships.
Here’s what happens often after we’ve said it:
“Soorrryyy.” said in the least apologetic voice ever.
“Sry” said out of the corner of their mouth and barely audible.
My master’s research was on restitution, which is an alternative way to apologize. If your child has difficulties saying sorry (or has a big power box), my offering is to facilitate restitution. This has a few steps:
1. Solidify their identity: This step is all about shame removal. The mistake they made was not without reason. They were trying to get a need fulfilled (in this space, we call that getting a need met in a DOWN way). We might say, “It’s okay to protect your tower.”
2. Set the loving boundary: we want them to know what wasn’t okay about their choice,
“It’s not okay to hit to protect your tower.”
3. How can they get the need met in an UP way? “If someone is going to knock your tower down, you can say “help mom!” or, “please don’t knock it down!”
4. Remind them/yourself they are in the learning phase, not mastery: It’s okay to make a mistake.
5. Ask how they can fix/repair/reconnect: “How can you fix your mistake?”
6. Check with the other person: “Would that help?”
7. Solidify their identity as a person who repairs: “Thank you for being the kind of person who fixes their mistakes.”
Many children (and adults if we are being honest) have a hard time apologizing, because of the shame associated with it. This process removes the shame, solidifies their identity as good and wonderful kids who are in a learning phase, and haven’t yet mastered the art of protecting a tower without their fists.
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