Here are several ways you can teach your children about the importance of saying “I’m sorry.”
First: Whenever it is appropriate, parents can demonstrate what apologetic behavior looks and sounds like by apologizing to one another. If they are sincere, this also speaks to other important individual and interpersonal lessons such as respect, empathy, compassion, kindness and humility.
Second: By apologizing to their child when they have been unfair and hurtful to them, they provide the experience of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a genuine apology. This is best done, when the parent accepts full responsibility for their behavior with no excuses and communicates sincere regret for what they recognize was unfair, hurtful and wrong.
Third: By including a description (worded on the child’s level), of the thoughts and feelings that led to the realization an apology was necessary – having placed themselves in the other’s shoes and imaging how they might feel; empathy, they lead their children step by step, along the “how to” path.
Finally, There is the importance of forgiveness for both offender and offended. Without forgiveness both remain trapped in pain. Forgiveness makes it possible to let go and move on. This tends to leave both parent and child feeling safer in the relationship. It is important to promise your child that you will not “repeat the offense and ask if they are willing to forgive you.”
Be prepared for the possibility that they may need a little time before they are ready to let go of their pain.
In this way parents teach their children about self-awareness, courage, humility and that “to love always means to give” – essential tools for life long dignity.
Image is from the Flickr Photostream of Maroon Surreal under Creative Commons license.