Four-year-old Toby is a sweetheart overall, but when he has hit a friend or thrown a toy at Anton or fill-in-the-blank-with-all-the-nutty-stuff-toddlers-can-do, we’ve always told him to apologize. Then he’ll mutter, “Sorry,” and it will be more or less over. It always felt a little misleading—as if we’re teaching him that he could throw that word out without thinking of the other person, and everything would be excused.

So! We tried something different this year, and it has been kind of awesome, and even adorable.

Every now and again, when we have a playdate and he has a rougher time than usual (and hits or offends), we will ask him to dictate a letter for his friend afterward. I ask him to think about how his friend might have felt, and what he might say to make them feel better.

Here are a few examples…

Dear Violet, I’m sorry I said, “You are not nice.” I am sorry because you were sad when I said, “You are not nice.” You are nice. Remember when we ate chocolate-covered cherries? You are so great. Love, Toby

Or the more concise:

Dear Olana, Sorry I hit you. Sorry I hit the mama. Love, Toby

I like the process because it gives him time to think, makes him feel empowered and shows him how you can turn a situation around. He has been really proud when we’ve given letters to his friends. And they’ve been so excited to get a letter!

Anyway, just wanted to share! Thoughts? How do you teach your kids to apologize? I’m probably overthinking it, but oh well, ha!

Side note: We have also been dictating thank-you notes, which are equally entertaining (and so funny to see what they remember! Food mostly?)

P.S. 5 ways to avoid sibling rivalry, and 20+ surprising parenting tips.

(Photo from my Instagram)