Airplane Survival

How to Teach Kids to Apologize

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!

P.S. 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)

  1. I’m not a fan of forced apologies from little ones b/c they can trigger shame and/or be insincere. I’m a fan of “checking on ________” instead. This allows the child who made the mistake to personalize the way in which he/she will fix it. When forced to be verbal our daughter will invariably freeze up. She’s more apt to check by giving a pat, offering a toy, etc. It’s nice b/c she can also generalize this action of checking on her friends when witness to a friend that has been hurt/upset by someone else.

  2. Good idea !
    A bit off topic but I saw another great tip at work this weekend : one of our friends was teaching his 5yr old the difference between mocking people and laughing with them. The kid had actually been imitating my boyfriend (who has the ability to nap anywhere, anytime) by pretending to fall asleep in odd places. His father asked him to do the same in front of my boyfriend, because only doing it behind his back would be mocking him. Smart, I thought ! xoxo, Anne-lise

  3. I just love this, Joanna! I think that teaching/showing meaning behind actions we train and teach our children to do is so important. It helps them learn to think (about empathy in this case) and build character. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Nice! Rather than just stating that you’re sorry, I was taught to apologize by asking, “Will you forgive me for….” Then the ball is in the other person’s court, whether to forgive or not. It’s important to teach kids to pin-point specifically what they exactly they are sorry for, and to seek forgiveness from the other person.

  5. I like this idea! One of the extra steps we’ve added for our daughter who is 3 (learned from Daniel Tiger – haha) is after she says, “I’m sorry”, she asks “how can I help make it better?” At first we had to prompt her to ask the question, but now it is part of the apology and seems to diffuse some of the toddler angst!

  6. I don’t do that with my pupils (7-8 years old) for apologizing, but for thinking about a “bad” behaviour they had. They have to fill a form with questions like:
    “what have I done?” “who did it hurt?” “how will I do next time?”…
    And sometimes, when I read what they write, I can see that they don’t understand what’s the problem with their behaviour! For example: the pupil thinks the problem is that he laughed. No, it was that he laughed because another pupil was ill! So it gives opportunity to discuss about it.
    (Excuse me if there are mistakes, french is my mother tongue…)

  7. Quick question: Do you have him give the actual note to his friend next time they are together?

    I like this idea and was just wondering about the execution of it.

    Love the blog also, btw!

  8. Writing things down is such a great exercise for kids. As a teacher I would frequently take students out of the room to chat when they were having a particularly bad day and would struggle to get much response form them but when you ask them to think and write it’s amazing how much reflection they provide. I really think they need the little bit of extra time to process and think to themselves.

  9. Such a nice idea. We wrote a letter last night after my 3 year old had a fight with his best friend! “I’m sorry that I said bad guys are gonna eat you.”

  10. I can’t remember where I learned this but we have always had our 3 boys apologize by saying, “I’m sorry for (blank). How can I make it right?” It has been really successful in letting them know that when you do something mean or wrong it is up to you to repair the wrong. The thing that cracks us up is that 9 times out of ten the ‘wronged’ one usually tells his brother to make his bed in order to make it right.
    One more thing I really try to do consistently is apologize to my boys when I have been impatient or rude to them. It is good for me to be humble and acknowledge my mistakes and it is good for them to see that it is normal for everyone to make bad decisions or have bad behavior and that even moms and dads need to make it right.

  11. The thank you note was cute. Thanks for sharing, I think Toby will like to see those when he gets older. Kid likes to eat!

  12. There is also value in learning to accept a sincere apology. Often times, kids (and adults) will say, “it’s okay”. Well, it’s not actually, okay. While the offenses are usually minor, we always taught our kids to say “I forgive you” instead. It’s not okay to take a toy or call someone a name, which is why we teach our children to apologize. And when we forgive, we teach them to truly forgive, and to say so. xo

  13. Bookmarking this for future references! I think this is a great practice for children. Might try this with the tots at Sunday school!

  14. I love this tactic! We did something similar when my stepson was about Toby’s age. Most of the time the letters were sweet, concise, and often tenderly surprising. Once though there was a letter that made me laugh inside, although we opted for a re-write rather than condoning it:

    Dear Adena,

    I am sorry that I said you are mean. But you are mean! You really are not so nice to me or anyone! I am sorry that you are not nice.

    Your Friend,

    Out of the mouth of babes! Haha

  15. we, too, have our son (he’ll be 5 in July) dictate apology letters – to the teachers at his preschool, as well as to the child to whom the offense happened. another thing we’re teaching him is to make eye contact when saying sorry. and to name the offense, as well.

  16. I like the idea of writing a letter, although I think the second example you gave (sorry for hitting) makes more sense for the apology note. Hitting is unacceptable, but thinking a friend is not nice should be accepted by parents more, because it’s your child’s feelings. If I felt a person wasn’t nice, and someone made me apologize for vocalizing my feelings,I might feel there was something wrong with me, or I might not want to express my feelings about people again. Just a thought! Thanks again for all you do.

  17. I discovered yesterday that my two boys (aged 6 and 4) had gone to the toilet outside as they didn’t want to stop playing so long to come inside. There apology was a hand written letter to me saying sorry. Bonus that it served as their practise writing for the day.

    I really like the idea for friends though. Thanks

  18. As a preschool teacher, we often encourage the children to ask their friend, “What can I do to make it better?” Sometimes this means an ice pack, rebuilding a block structure or just a hug. It helps to create a little more empathy than a mumbled “I’m sorry.”

  19. In Montessori philosophy we are taught not to tell a child to just “say sorry” because so often its just forced upon a child and they are not getting the full meaning behind those words. Instead I usually say ” I can see ___ is really upset. What do you think you could do to make him feel better?” If the child just stands there I may give suggestions “Perhaps you could offer a hug, an apology or a handshake?”. If they still refuse to apologize I will say to the hurt child ” I am very sorry you were hurt”. Sometimes as adults, even when we make mistakes, we are not ready to apologize right away and forcing a child to makes it a false action. I love your idea of the letter because the child can have sometime to put his words together in a genuine way.

  20. I agree about forced apologies. It only teaches the saying of the word- not much about what the other person is experiencing. At my daughters preschool the protocol was to ‘check in’. If someone got hurt- by you or somebody else- you could check in with them, see if they were okay, offer to get them some water or something else you thought might help. It was teaching empathy, not a magic word. Most of this was parent-led modeling, of course, but some of the kids were really on it. I love how it shifts the focus from ‘wrongdoer and victim’ to how to repair those inevitable and often unintentional rifts that happen in any relationship at any age. It also translates easily into checking in BEFORE anything happens: ‘can I give you a hug right now?’ ‘Is this wrestling still okay for you?’

  21. I wonder who wrote that last letter to Nana. That hand writing is just beautiful ;)

  22. I think it is equally important to teach young ones to accept an apology. We were taught not to say “it’s OK”, because it’s not OK, otherwise an apology would not be necessary. Instead, we were to say “I forgive you, please don’t again because it really made me “. I think this helps BOTH kids identify and deal with emotions appropriately.

  23. Such a sweet idea. I think its also important to teach little ones to ask, “will you forgive me?” or “how can I make it right?” This is nice reminder that the person being apologized to has agency in the situation. A child who has been hit may not feel like pretending everything is cool, especially after a forced, “I’m sorry.” An apology isn’t just about teaching kids good behavior, but teaching them how to be in relationship with other people.

  24. Oh – and I second the cuppacocoa link that Elizabeth (comment #1) gave – I read that a while back too and plan to implement it soon when I think my daughter is old enough!

  25. I did this for a while too, when my daughter was two-three. She wasn’t really able to dictate a coherent letter at the time, but she would make a card and I would write ‘Sorry’ on it for her. I think I should resume the habit, now that she could dictate the apology herself!
    A line from a Daniel Tiger song is ‘saying I’m sorry is the first step, then how can I help’ – that’s helped us too, so that she says sorry but then also tries to help the person feel better depending on what the situation is.

  26. I get my 4 year old to dictate birthday card messages to everyone, it is hilarious! but the apology letter is a great idea. My 4 year old says “if you say sorry, then it was an accident”, this he says after he hits his 1 year old sister. I will try this apology letter idea, thanks!

  27. This is a very sweet idea. When my son was this age and we would go to a playground or have a play date and problems would arise, it often seemed to me that the forced apology had more to do with the parents discomfort (myself included!) rather than thinking about really teaching the kids something.
    What I ended up doing, was in the moment going to the child who was hurting (physically or emotionally) and asking if they were alright and then would ask my son to join me in checking on his friend to see if they were alright and take some time in doing so, but no forced apology.
    It’s all so developmentally appropriate and has nothing to do with a kid not being “sweet”. It is how kids learn, even though it’s painful as a parent to not see our kids acting their best.
    I think the apology note is like I said, a very sweet idea and also might be making a bigger deal of the situation than needs to be made (especially for a four year old). Kids are so resilient and move on so quickly and ultimately, as kids get older the best and most effective teacher is another kid saying, “I’m not going to play with you if you do that”. Which is also painful, but these are all necessary experiences.
    We have always done thank yous, just to get in the habit of showing gratitude. I think it’s so important and what a sweet note!

  28. I always make my daughter (4) look at the person she’s apologising to. Sometimes it takes a few tries, but I like to think that the act of looking into the eyes of the person she has hurt helps the situation sink in more. We may try some letters too! Thanks for the tip! x

  29. Hi Joanna,

    I really like this idea. I’m just curious about how it works in the moment; if your child hits another at the park, when do you write the letter? Later that day? If you write the letter later, how do you deal with the issue in the moment? How do you handle apologizing if you don’t know the child who was wronged (someone at the park, for instance)? (These may seem like antagonizing questions; they’re not meant to be! I’m asking because I think it’s a lovely idea and would like to implement it, but am not sure how to make it work practically. You seem like a thoughtful person, so I’m sure you’ve come up with great solutions to the logistical hurdles of this consequence).

    I can see the benefits of immediately writing the letter as the spat is cleared up fairly quickly and the wronged child – and their parent – are appeased (it would also give the child who misbehaved a chance to calm down as they’re switching from merely feeling to thinking).

    I absolutely love thought-provoking parenting posts like these that make me quesiton my current operating procedure and why I do it that way (and if there is a better/kinder/more logical way). Thanks for providing so many of them!

  30. For my older kids I love the 4-part apology I found on Pinterest.

    1. I’m sorry for…
    2. This was wrong because…
    3. In the future I will…
    4. Will you forgive me?

    My oldest child is very literal and good at following specific instructions, but not so good with subtlety/reading people’s reactions/etc. So this exercise has been GREAT for him. Maybe his apologies might sound a little stilted at times but for the most part he can take this format and make it his own. Thanks, Pinterest :)

  31. Love this! Am sharing this link with my friends. It should be a great start to an important parenting discussion. Teaching virtues is an essential part of our parenting. This idea embraces so many virtues – sympathy, courtesy, thoughtfulness and love. Thanks Joanna.

  32. Everything I read on your blog changes my approach to how I want to parent my children. I love this letter idea. I think it really gives children the understanding of cause and affect. You are such a darling mom. XOXO

  33. I work with children who have intensive mental health needs and hurting others is a frequent occurrence (physically, emotionally, etc). We always hold the expectation that they “check in” when they hurt someone else. Sometimes they say sorry, or sometimes they ask “are you ok”. It is more genuine and it teaches the kids that you DO need to check in with someone when you hurt them, even if you are not feeling sorry. It’s definitely something I’ll use with my own kids some day!

  34. My parents always taught us that when we said “I’m sorry” that it signaled to the other person that we intended to change in some way. And they would ask us sometimes – “You said you’re sorry – what does that mean? What are you going to do now?” Stop saying they weren’t nice, work harder to do X, Y, or Z. And they also told us that if we had an explanation to follow our sorry, “I’m sorry, but I’m really tired…” then it wasn’t a true apology. A really miserable lesson when you’re irritated with your sister, but something that’s been wonderful later in life.

  35. Great idea Jo. I am totally impressed.

  36. This is serious stuff! It is hard to teach them to apologize. Especially to their siblings. Until one day they grow up and turn eight. And you realize that all your efforts payed off and you hear..”Am I already allowed to apologize to my brother?” So now he’s incorporated the “right moment” variable and knows when to talk to his very angry brother. Ha! I loved this post and it’s very sweet.

  37. This is a great idea! Now, any advice on how to get adults to apologize? I think it may be a lost cause by then, but just curious.

  38. Aaa what a cutie Toby is! And what a brilliant idea!

  39. We have also used the note/letter route for big mess-ups! My mom, a kindergarten teacher, gave me a great technique for teaching kids about apologies. Now in our house, adults and kids alike have to apologize the same way the students do in her classroom, and it works:

    1) Look the person in the eye.
    2) Say “I’m sorry”, describe what you did wrong, and acknowledge how it might have made the person feel.
    3) Explain how you plan to correct that action.
    4) The other person has the option to forgive now, or forgive later. (Understanding that sometimes, the hurt is too big to be immediately forgiven!)

    It does make the kids think about the weight of their actions and words. It’s an empowering exercise for both parties, and makes the interaction meaningful.

  40. My brother does the Daniel Tiger method with his 3-year-old as well! It’s sooooo cute. He also practices it when apologizing to his son (usually for something like accidentally stepping on his toes– isn’t it the worst when you accidentally step on your kid’s toes? I feel like a monster every time). I think modeling apology is very important for kids.

  41. Hi Joanna :)

    Love the letter idea – definitely helps Toby think through his actions. I was recently a pre-school teacher at a Reggio-Emilia School. The learning there is based off of the assumption that a child is completely competent and it is an adult’s job to simply guide him in the right direction.

    I’m a big believer that young kids don’t necessarily understand apologies, because when they’re really young (3 and under) they honestly don’t have the capacity to think of others yet. Everything is selfish – because that’s all they know. Modeling is best for these ages, in my opinion, and then taking action for the children involved. For example, if Max hits Maggie with a book, the conversation might sound like this: Adult: “Ouch, Max! That really hurt Maggie. You seem angry that Maggie is trying to take the book from you. Next time you can say ‘I’m using it’. Let’s go work on a puzzle and we can come back to the books when you’re ready to read them again.” With older kids, 3 and older, it’s amazing how much a conversation between the two kids can help. Obviously, the child that was hurt must be willing, too. The conversation sounds the same, only with more prompting and listening. “Maggie, how did that make you feel?” “Max, why did you want to hit Maggie with the book? “Next time let’s use our words instead.”

  42. My husband and I found our parenting changed a lot when we learned about Restorative Practices for work. (We work in a high school.)

    There is a set of Restorative questions you ask when things go south, and they are so helpful. The goal is not blame, but helping kids learn to take responsibility, to make right what has gone wrong, and to restore relationships where they are broken.

    When things go wrong…
    1. What happened? (This allows everyone to share their perspective, and it doesn’t blame.)
    2. What were you thinking of at the
    3. What have you thought about since?
    4. Who has been affected by what you
    have done? In what way?
    5. What do you need to do to make
    things right?

    You’d be surprised what you hear when you are prepared to listen to the whole story. And these doesn’t accuse anyone, so it prevents kids from getting defensive right away.

    Talking these through can take some time, but this helps kids start to understand the effect of their actions on the people around them.

    It’s at the “What can you do to make things right?” where the apology comes in – and sometimes you need to do more than apologize. Replace the toy that was broken, for example. Commit to different actions in future.

    These are questions I use on myself, too. We all need to work these things through!

  43. This is SO sweet and cute! What a great idea to teach children compassion for others and to own up to their mistakes! Good job you guys :)

  44. I don’t ever think I’ll be a parent, but I loved this nonetheless. Great work on this life lesson.

  45. Jo, this is awesome and adorable. I sometimes have my children say they are sorry and then ask what they can do to help the other person feel better. That way they are learning to show that they are sorry, too. Sorry. Is not just a word, but an action.

    Thanks for the great posts on parenting and life <3

  46. Four years old is a great time to teach how to apologize just as in the letters, I’m sorry for…. makes them think of what they actually did to offend or hurt the other playmate.

  47. I like that this gives kids an opportunity to really understand why what they did was wrong and how what they did hurt someone else.

    Those two guys kicked out of college for that racist chant? They didn’t write apologies nearly this complete.

  48. love these comments. julia, my parents sometimes made us hug each other too, and it was unbearable when you’re furious haha. ONE MINUTE. that’s awesome.

    thank you so much for the great comments and insights!! xo

  49. natalie, that is so sweet. love that approach. aanna, that’s a lovely method, too—good on daniel tiger! :)

  50. This is such a lovely and brilliant idea that will definitely mold a more compassionate and thoughtful human…and we certainly need as many of those as we can get these days :) Thanks for sharing. Really wonderful!

  51. Great topic. I felt the same way about just throwing “sorry” out there. I just seems like lip service. So, I instituted for all my kids as well as myself a way to apologize that I think brings the offense full circle. I have my child apologize and include the offense in their apology, explain as best they can why they did the offense and then I have them ask the person to forgive them. “I’m sorry I called you a cheater during the game, I was frustrated that I was losing, will you forgive me?” it had certainly helped with humility and my kids seem to be less quick to offend. I think asking for forgiveness closes the circle. Obviously it all has to be sincere and I don’t force my kids to do it until they can come from a place of sincerity. Natalie

  52. I think that’s a great idea.

  53. We taught our 2-year-old to begin by apologizing, then always following up “I’m sorry” with “How can I help?” (We totally borrowed this from Daniel Tiger :) It feels like a good way to both apologize and try to set things right in a real way. Most the time, the answer is just “Please don’t do that again,” but other times it’s more practical, like restoring a stolen toy, cleaning up a mess, or giving a hug. My husband and I have liked the results so much (it just feels right!) that we’ve adopted the habit between the two of us.

  54. Great idea!! I’ll try with my 4yrs and let you know!

  55. Love, love, LOVE! Not only does it give him time to reflect on his behavior it reinforced the dying art of letter writing. I will use this when I have children.

  56. Oh great…this is not over thinking at all–I love it! My husband and I did this exact thing with our little ones and it works. I even saved many of the letters they wrote to each other after their sibling spats. They are now 25 and 23 years old and often talk about those letters and re-read them when they come home to visit.

  57. I have my boys say I am sorry for …. that way they have to think about what they did.

  58. In our co-op preschool, after any incident (hitting, mean words, accidental collision), we were always encouraged to have our children check on the other child and think of ways we can help them feel better — a hug, a high five, a silly joke. Telling them to say they are sorry really isn’t helping them learn to actually “feel” sorry and understand that they hurt someone. The only problem I’ve had with this approach is that other parents who don’t go to this preschool don’t understand and are just waiting for your child to say sorry. :)

  59. I love this idea! I also encourage you to ask for forgiveness, along with the apology. it’s something we rarely do in our society, but it’s real and raw and freeing when we learn to do it right! My hubby and I try to ask for forgiveness when we apologize. it’s really wonderful.when you’re forgiven it releases any feelings of debt you might feel you owe that person because of the wrong done.

  60. I’m not a fan of the insincere “SORRY!” either. With kids Toby’s age, I often ask them in the moment to look at their friend’s face and I ask them something like, “Look at how that made him/her feel when you …” and “What can you do to help him/her now?” It really depends on the situation! Sometimes everybody has to cool down first.

    For my older kids, I aspire to something like they describe in this article:
    A Better Way To Say Sorry We don’t often do this whole thing, we just talk through it, especially if they did something that really upset another person.

    I’ve notice that sometimes adults are offended by a kid who does not say sorry right away, or they will try to force an apology out of a kid that is not their own. Just something to think about if you’re not teaching the habit version of saying sorry.

  61. Wow… Great idea n cute too

  62. This is so smart! Toby’s notes are hilarious and sincere. I remember as a kid, when my sister and I fought, my mom would make us hug each other for a minute. A whole minute! We would always end up laughing by the end of it because it was so ridiculous. Pretty good idea with siblings since it forces you to remember that you love the person first and foremost.. and then apologies are a little easier to give and receive :)

  63. This is great! I was at a child’s b-day party yesterday where the b-day girl – who is generally a VERY sweet girl – told her friend who wanted to sit next to her that she didn’t want to sit next to her. I witnessed this and told the b-day girl that this wasn’t nice and she was not happy with me and blamed the other child saying that the other child was telling her where to sit. It is so tough at this age (5) because kids speak without thinking and end up being mean without wanting to or really trying to. It is particularly tough to catch/deal with in the moment – this is a great idea!! thanks so much for sharing.

  64. Watching other parents force apologies that are clearly not meant drives me CRAZY. It’s even worse when saying sorry is the only consequence for doing something truly unacceptable.

    So – I think this is a great option and I like the idea of the parent modeling the apologizing too.

    The goal is to get them to think about other people’s feelings, right? And that’s not something that a child in a foul mood can do in the moment.

    If you want your kids to consider other people’s feelings in the heat of the moment, it’s easiest to start with doing it in times of calm, though. You can point out when their actions and other people’s actions are caring or respectful (and you can also point out how it hurt people’s feelings when other kids yelled or tantrumed or threw things).

  65. We do a three part apology that basically consists of:
    I’m sorry for…(the statement of what was done that we are sorry for.)
    It won’t happen again.(This is the promise part that makes us think about our future actions.)
    What can I do to make it up to you/make it better? (Fully taking responsibility for our actions.)

    It’s worked well for our family. I love the letter writing, though. My kids love to write letters.

  66. That’s a great way to get kids to think more about the apology and why they are apologizing.

    With my oldest, he was always very shy and afraid to apologize. Right from the get go, he seemed to know he did something wrong and was so embarrassed and upset about it. So apologizing was a big deal for him, even when it was just between myself and my husband.

    However, my youngest was the opposite. We barely had to teach him. He’s able to apologize on his own and recognize when it’s necessay. However, I do notice that he doesn’t always fully understand why he’s apologizing. He just realizes that he’s done something wrong, but needs extra guidance to understand why it was wrong, maybe I’ll give this a try.

  67. I absolutely love this idea. My mom taught me this way when I got a little older, but I think starting at toddler age is perfect. Owning responsibility for yourself and your actions, and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortableness and vulnerability of confronting those things with others is such an important lesson. I was thinking recently about how I want to always include my children with cards and letters (like that thank you note example) after noticing how my husbands cousins always do that with their 3 children, have them sign personal notes in the card or make cards themselves that include thoughtful sentiments, they are 8, 12 and 14 and they say the sweetest things, always my favorite cards. Whether its to apologize, give thanks or just wish someone a happy birthday its a wonderful way to teach children thoughtfulness!

  68. Hi Joanna — this idea is so beautiful! I’ve noticed that it seems like this generation of parents don’t even make their kids apologize when they got another child or even an adult! Being apologetic and willing to forgive others is so key to being a good person. Thanks for sharing how you instill this in your kids!

  69. I recently tried this! My 6 yo daughter had a particularly rough day, and I was so frustrated with her that I blurted out “You sit down at this table and write an apology!” To my surprise, she quietly sat down and did it. And oh, the cuteness of a 6 year old’s written apology. I couldn’t keep from smiling as I read it, and we all felt a lot better.

  70. We’ve taught our son (almost 3) that he needs to say why he’s sorry that way he has to stop and recognize what he did to offend/hurt the other person.

  71. This is great, and reminds me of the “Think Sheets” I used as a 2nd grade teacher when a student made a poor choice. It helped them verbalize what the issue was, what they did, and what they should do next time instead. (Googling “think sheet” results in many templates for different age groups).

  72. I think this is such a lovely idea. Thank you for sharing <3

  73. That’s a sweet idea :)

    I’m a fan of teaching to apologize in steps: I’m sorry for <> because <>. In the future I will <>.

    It’s important to think about why we’re apologizing, not just that we need to apologize – even for adults!

    Sweet Spontaneity

  74. Hi Joanna, thanks for posting these parenting tips. While we may not all agree on the strategies, I appreciate the forum for getting us started on thinking about the issues. In this case, I love the spirit of helping Toby to think through his actions. A lot of us parents (me included of course) are quick to present our children with good social graces, but don’t slow down enough to think about the habits and attitudes we’re building. Thanks for the post.

  75. What a cool idea! My son is about a year younger than Toby and has been going to a Montessori school since the fall. His teacher told us that they give the child a chance to calm down and then ask them/gently encourage them to apologize with the same idea in mind–teaching a child that they’re off the hook if they mutter “sorry” isn’t all that useful. So we’ve tried that–giving him a chance to cool off and then asking if he would like to apologize. It seems to work (most of the time!). Thanks for sharing this!

  76. my parents NEVER apologized for anything, but it was required that the kids apologize. their belief was even if they’re wrong, they’re right and their model of do as you’re told rankled. there were times i would get spanked for refusing to apologize, i’d rather take a beating than kowtow.

    to this day i have a really hard time apologizing graciously, i do it but it sits badly in my stomach and does not roll of my tongue easily.

  77. In person, I make my child give a hug and say, “I’m sorry”. There was an incident where 7YOD ignored one of her friends all day because X got a better score on a worksheet than her. I made her make an “I’m sorry” card. She is an artist so this brings the point home in her favor.

  78. That thank you note is the best thing I have seen in a while! So adorable.

  79. This is a great idea. Our eldest has such a hard time saying sorry. He has gone hours sulking before deciding he was ready to say sorry and join back in whatever we are doing. I’m definitely going to try this with him!
    His younger brother on the other hand is the world champion of sorry. He’s quick, knows exactly what to say, and gives out lovely wet kisses as an accompaniment. He has had ALOT of practice too!

  80. I do the same thing with my 4 year-old. He dictated a letter of apology one day to his Pre-K teacher after he had a (rare!) naughty day at school and we gave it to her the next day.

  81. My children learned to apologize right away and to do something nice after .. say the little boy grabbed the ball and wouldn’t share, he would say he was sorry and he would share something of his ..

    Making a big deal out of a written apology for a 4 year old is, in my opinion, overkill.
    Saying they are sorry and being nice , sharing ,etc is enough for a 4 year old.

  82. This is so sweet, and such a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing!


  83. Letter writing is a dying art. I always make our daughter send notes when she gets gifts. (she is the only one of her friends that does it!)
    Its polite and such good manners.
    Keep it up Jo!

  84. When my son was a toddler (he’s 7.5 now), I also hated how rote the forced apology was. So what I would do is apologize for my son in front of him. “i’m so sorry that X did that to you. It wasn’t very nice. are you ok?” he would get the message and offer his own apology right away. And if he didn’t, he’d at least see me role-modeling the correct behavior. We’ve also made cards for friends after a spat. It’s all good!