I’ve taught my kids that when anyone apologises we should never answer with “that’s okay”, because it’s not okay. If it were okay, there would be no need for an apology.
When someone apologises to us we say “I forgive you. Please don’t do it again.” No-one says they forgive someone until they actually feel they do forgive them. Forgiveness is not always automatic and it often takes time, but when the forgiveness comes it is usually genuine and heartfelt.
This apology response is very powerful. And, it shocks a lot of people when they first hear it because they are not expecting it. But it teaches my kids that apologies are not about letting the offender off the hook or making the offender feel better after they get “in trouble” for doing something they shouldn’t.
What is does do is teach my children how to set healthy boundaries with other people, and how to put limits on behaviour that is intolerable and unacceptable to them. It empowers my kids to trust their own instincts; to sit with their feelings and accept and acknowledge those feelings; it validates their feelings; and it prevents them from holding grudges. And, that’s okay with me!
I believe that allowing kids decide when they will and when they will not accept an apology is a parenting decision of which they will reap the benefits for years to come. It’s not okay,when someone wronged us – and if we learn to deal with that at young age – we can handle a lot more serious issues when we are older. We don’t want our kids growing up to be bullied, pushed around, or let people treat them badly – so we have to show them how to deal with that.
I try not to force my kids to apologise (I see that a lot from other parents) but I will let them know one’s warranted by saying things like “I think you owe your sister an apology”. Everything just goes so much better and is more effective when they think (and if they are) acting on their own volition.
How do you handle apologies??