Sorry – The Hardest Word for Kids

I'm Sorry We have seen good businesses make very bad decisions about taking responsibility for an error. The fallout can be devastating, and much of the damage is done because the business refuses to apologize or “make it right.”  

As your kids grow up, they are going to make mistakes. They are going to hurt others, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and they will bear the consequences of these events.

How do we raise children who know how to apologize, and more importantly, who know how to make reparations?

I won’t pretend it is easy, but you can do it.

There are three steps to a truly effective apology:

  1. Make the statement. “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize” work quite well.
  2. Make the promise. “I won’t do it again.”
  3. Ask the question. “How can I make it up to you?” Or, if a child is old enough, he or she can offer a suggestion on how they can make reparation for the harm they have done.

When children approach apologies in this manner, they learn about responsibility and the power in a sincere apology. They also learn the foundation of restorative justice.

You can help them go through this process and at younger ages in particular, help them think about appropriate reparations. What would really “make it up” to the injured party? They will often surprise you with the depth of their empathy and their willingness to salvage the relationship, but sometimes stubbornness will take the day, and then you must be kind but firm.

Oh, and by the way, this door swings both ways. When you are wrong, you get to go through the same three-step process with them!

After all, fair is fair.

4 thoughts on “Sorry – The Hardest Word for Kids

  1. Reblogged this on Neets Notes and commented:
    I think I say ‘sorry’ too often and I think my daughter is picking up the habit. If you say it too often, it loses meaning. I go through phases where I use the word often and then phases where I don’t use it at all. It’s important to find the right balance.


    • You are right on target. I think the differentiation comes when you think of an apology as the starting point. If you aren’t going to follow through with the other steps, then simply don’t go there. Reparation is where the hardest work lives, and when you do it, apologies become far more than a throw away phrase that we toss in and move on. Thanks for re-blogging, and best of luck to you in your parenting journey!


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