Forced Apologies

Last week I backed myself into a corner with my daughter and I totally regretted it.  Have you been there before?  My daughter’s friend Amy was wearing Kiki’s bookbag and Kiki decided that she wanted it back.  Amy starting running off and my daughter basically tackled Amy onto the sidewalk to get her bookbag back.  She hadn’t intended to knock her friend down – she was just trying to grab her bag – but she did knock her over and Amy scratched her arm on the sidewalk and started crying.  Here’s the conversation that followed…

Me:  Kiki, why did you do that?

Kiki:  Amy took my bookbag and I wanted it back.

Me:  Did you ask her for it back?

Kiki:  Well she was running away and I didn’t want her to take it.  It’s mine.

Me:  I know it’s yours, but you can’t just grab things like that.  You knocked Amy over and hurt her.

Kiki:  But I wanted my bookbag back.

Me:  You hurt Amy.  Even if you didn’t mean to hurt her, you still did.  I think you need to apologize.

Kiki:  I don’t want to apologize.

Me:  But you hurt her, so you need to say you’re sorry.

I had taken a stand and said that she needed to apologize. But she dug in her heels, pouted, and refused.  My stubborn daughter was not going to do it.   And I was stuck.  I didn’t really have anything I could use to motivate her.  We were on our way to dinner and I wasn’t about to tell her she couldn’t eat until she apologized.  So Kiki just stood there to the side of the table pouting until she finally came over to eat.  I gave her space, but would occasionally ask her if she was ready to apologize yet (not with any consequence added to it, just a strong “you need to apologize” statement).  Every time I would do this, Kiki would get pouty again and would sulk off to the side by herself.  I had actually managed to make the situation worse.  Kiki wasn’t apologizing and Amy was in tears because Kiki wouldn’t talk to her (she didn’t care about the apology, she just wanted Kiki to talk to her).  And there I was wishing I had just told her that I thought she should apologize and crossed my fingers that she did the right thing.

This situation had me thinking, “should I try to force my child to apologize?”  I’ve read a few articles (like this one) about this topic and they all seem to say, no.  Apparently you should not force your kid to apologize because you humiliate them and the best thing you end up with is an insincere apology.

While I do see the point they are making, I also think that Kiki needs to learn that there are times that you just need to say you’re sorry.  It’s a social expectation.  It’s like saying “please” and “thank you”.  In certain situations, it’s just common courtesy to apologize.


What do you think?  Should you make your child apologize?

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2 thoughts on “Forced Apologies

  1. I have totally run into this and this is what I think: Sometimes apologizing is the right thing to do. You can strongly encourage it but can you force them? No. I have apologized to the other child and checked in with them to try and model. I have given a consequence of leaving the space immediately and she has not taken me up on it but believes me. Sometimes I feel like I push too hard but it’s a dance. Physical aggression on Lucy’s part is definitely one of my firm boundaries but that doesn’t mean she never gets physical and it also isn’t a huge deal. We’ve changed some sorries into “I know I shouldn’t have done that” or “I didn’t mean to do that” instead of apologizing and that has worked remarkably well. I also always let her tell her side of the story, which you are so good at, and I have her communicate that as well to teach her to use words to express her feelings. I have yet to have Vera be in Kiki’s position and it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like with her. Well, hubby just heated me up and dinner and we’re going to relax. I feel like this counts as my blog for the night 🙂

    • Yeah I like the idea of modeling the apology for them. I also like not being so set on the words “I’m sorry” and giving them a chance to show their remorse in other ways. Thanks for your response.

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