Teaching Kids: How to Say I’m Sorry

Nannies and Character Development

Given the amount of time a nanny spends caring for the children in her care, it should be no surprise that she will significantly influence the character of the young children in her care. As such, nannies must be sure to consciously impart solid character in the children and strive to o their parent in helping parents raise conscious, caring and responsible children.

Teaching young children social graces is a never-ending process. Children don’t like taking the blame and often don’t like the consequences that come along with wrong doing. But before children can genuinely feel sorry or say “I’m sorry,” they must first realize that they’ve done something wrong.

Nannies can help children understand acceptable and unacceptable behavior by setting clear boundaries with regards to how children treat others. With young toddlers, nannies will often have to point out what the unacceptable behavior was and prompt the child to offer an apology. While at this stage it’s just a lesson in following the rules of apologizing, as toddlers grow into preschoolers, they’ll be able to better understand what they did wrong without much prodding. When this is the case, nannies can help children to understand the impact of their actions on others and teach children why an apology is needed and the importance of an apology being sincere.

Older children are not only capable of offering a sincere apology, but can also take steps to tangibly correct a situation. If a 9-year-old breaks his sister’s toy, he can use his allowance to replace it. For older children, understanding that a true apology accompanies a change in behavior is also essential.

For nannies, saying that they are sorry when appropriate is perhaps the most powerful learning tool. If you’ve walked by and accidently knocked over the 3-year-old’s block masterpiece, get down to her level, look her in the eyes, tell her you’re sorry that you knocked over her tower and offer to help to rebuild it. When teaching children to apology, it should always be a case of do as I do.


10 Tips for Teaching Children to Say “I’m Sorry”

Society seems to be at the stage where apologies, if given at all, are for the most part perfunctory. Sincere, heartfelt expressions of remorse and empathy seem to have fallen by the wayside. How then can parents and nannies teach children how to say “I’m sorry” and mean it? Here are a few tips to try.

  1. Teach by example – As with most good habits parents and caregivers wish to instill in their children, the best way for teaching a child is by example. When you do or say something wrong or hurtful do you apologize? And if you do, is it obvious that your apology is sincere? Children especially have a way of sensing whether or not a person is genuine or just paying lip service.
  2. Teach empathy – Children need to be taught how to see a situation from another person’s perspective. When they are small the world revolves solely around them as far as they are concerned. The only feelings that matter are theirs and if it’s not pointed out to them that other people have feelings too they will never learn to empathize.
  3. Teachable moments – When children wind up on the short end of the stick or gets their feelings hurt use that time as a teachable moment. Explain to them how the hurt they are feeling at the moment is the same hurt that someone else feels when they do something similar. Help them to understand how important a sincere apology is at a time like that.
  4. Instill a sense of interdependence – Not to be confused with dependence or co-dependence, interdependence means everyone is mutally dependent on each other. Especially in the family unit, there is a sense of accountability to one another that needs to be honored. Just as your child expects you to be honest and caring and sensitive to their feelings, you need to have the same expectations for your child and hold them to that accountability. When it needs to be said, saying “I’m sorry” will be genuine once true interdependence is established.
  5. Acknowledging right from wrong – A sincere apology means a child understands the difference between right from wrong in the offending situation. If an apology is due and not forthcoming, this may be a time to have a conversation with your child about why they are in the wrong and how it affects the other person.
  6. The lesson of humility – This is not about shame, but rather about taking the high road of being humble enough to admit when you are wrong. Too much of the time in our society people will be shown to be wrong yet they won’t admit to wrongdoing or accept responsibility for it. This is another time in which parents need to lead by example. If you inadvertently wronged your child, be humble enough to admit the error and apologize.
  7. Integrity – Teaching your child integrity includes apologizing for transgressions that are not readily apparent. Why would anyone want to apologize for doing something wrong that no one really knows about? It’s a good habit to form because eventually in most situations the truth will out anyway, and it’s better to head off a bad situation than wait around for the axe to fall.
  8. Dealing with guilt – Perhaps one reason some kids don’t like to apologize is because they don’t know how to handle the feelings of guilt. If your child has problems dealing with guilt you can help them find ways to handle it. You want to help them use those feelings to move them into doing some good rather than dismissing them or ignoring them.
  9. Making amends – Teach your child about making amends. Doing something concrete to right the situation can help in dealing with feelings of guilt.
  10. Words have power – Help your child understand that words have power – Through the use of examples of others in everyday life and in their own experience, you can teach your child that words have the power to hurt and heal.

When you take advantage of teachable moments and instill a sense of empathy and interdependence in a child, you will find that they will develop a conscience that will cause them to make good choices in what they do and how they treat others. Then on those rare occasions when an apology is needed, it will be sincere.

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